The Great Outdoors
Kickball isn't just for kids anymore
"Kick some balls!" the cheer rang out across Baldwin Park. Teams with names like Monster Balls, Balls Deep and Menace to Sobriety sized each other up before heading into furious competition. It didn't take long in the stands to see why kickball — the sport of playground kings — now appeals to an growing legion of active, and often beer-consuming, adults.
As she watched the season opener, Joni Owens said she hadn't played kickball since elementary school. "I had no idea that it came back,” she said.
But it has — in a big way.
Some 100 people spread out before Owens on a recent Sunday around two makeshift diamonds marked by floppy plastic bases. Groups of players gathered on the grass beforehand in lumpy circles sharing the kind of camaraderie one might have found on a bowling team 30 years ago. It seemed an even mix of men and women. Most, though certainly not all, were in their 20s and 30s. In the distance, someone carried a case of Bud Light across the field.
The games were the first for a new winter league organized by the World Adult Kickball Association. Along with sportsmonkey.com and teams organized by the City of Houston Parks Department, adult kickball has become a year-round phenomenon in Houston parks in recent years.
“You just show up. You don’t have to practice. There’s no judgment,” said Aurora Perez.
Her sister, Move Ya Body team captain Laura Perez, told me the season consists of 10 weeks of double headers. A natural leader, she rounded up 21 of her friends and associates to play after she happened to see a flier in the restroom at another park.
“We always loved kickball because it was the easier sport to play,” said captain Perez, though after a few innings I was inclined to believe there’s more skill to it than one might suspect.
The games last six innings with a time limit of 45 minutes. Unless you were homeschooled, you likely remember the rules from gym class and, yes, if you bean a runner with the big red ball, they’re out.
For adults, there aren’t a lot of times you get to throw something as hard as you can at a complete stranger for no particular reason — and not get arrested for it. Nor is there gym class to force us to share the spirit of competition with new friends. Nor are there many excuses to hang out in a park in Midtown for a couple of hours, running around and soaking in the sun on a fabulous South Texas winter afternoon. That, and a free T-shirt, are more than enough reason for adult kickball to continue its odd but unsurprising growth in Houston.