the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Kickball: Where the XX Rules

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Kickball changed my life.

Yes, that playground game with the big rubber ball. As Annie Savoy opined in Bull Durham, “The only church that truly feeds the soul – day in, day out – is the Church of Baseball.”

The same could be said about kickball.

I tried for years to find fellowship at church, but for some reason, sharing coffee and talking about the Bible didn’t really fulfill me. Not that I turned my back on God. I still attend church but I don’t go to make long-lasting friendships over scripture and donuts.

Sunday afternoon kickball has taught me a lot about life.

I never played organized sports as a kid or adult. While a lot of girls got deeply into softball, gymnastics or tennis, I focused on the artsy stuff – journalism, rock stars and art. As an adult, organized sports didn’t woo me either. Who wanted to hang out with a lot of jocks when I was as far from that as a martian?

Five years ago, my partner-in-crime, Glen, and I decided to join the Little Rock Kickball Association – a league created for those who had never really played sports. The Eco-Savants were born, our team’s name because Glen loves the planet and some team members worked for local enviro groups. We joined up and entered the “competitive league.” Why not, I thought: how hard could kickball be?

Pretty damn hard, come to find out. People around here take kickball very seriously. We didn’t win a single game that first season, and jumped down to the “laid-back league” where people dressed in costumes and drank more beer. We lost a lot of players those first couple of years and our team roster was in a constant state of flux.

Then three years ago, something magical happened. We joined the newly-formed novice league, said adios to Mardi Gras-like costumes and added some new players. I began to understand the sports team mentality that athletes know well – how teams are like families and how people have each other’s back both on the field and off. Our team sticks together through win or loss, death and injury.

The most amazing thing about our team is the absence of sexism. We have fourteen players – seven boys and seven girls. The guys on our team don’t believe that simply because you’ve got the XX that you can’t play as hard or good as the guys.

That’s not true on the other teams. You’ll hear “That girl can’t catch the ball.” And oh, how that team rues it when one of our kickball goddesses does.

The Eco girls can hold their own with any guy on the team. They can match them beer for beer and catch for catch. But aside from boy versus girl, I’ve discovered the true meaning of friendship with this team.

We always watch out for Melanie, a petite pilates instructor who is a diabetic, and make sure her blood sugar stays in check. Her husband, Josh, a draftsman and musician, guards first base while holding a can of beer and cigarette and keeps the team’s emotions in check. “It’s just kickball,” he’ll say when I get riled up and my pony tails start spinning.

When the team needed new jerseys, Miranda, the team’s artist-in-residence, took the time to silk-screen each one of them. She brings her two-year-old daughter, Olivia, to the field and of course, Olivia wears her own miniature version of the Eco black jersey.

In her mid-forties and a mother of two, Melinda, a/k/a Scrappy, holds down third base and seldom allows anyone to advance home. She is tiny, strong and an ultimate Frisbee player who is faster than most women half her age.

I’m by no means a great player. I’ve improved over the years, and last year caught all three outs in one inning. I felt like an Olympian who had just captured a gold medal. For all the bylines and adventures I’ve had, that will always be a big part of my life’s mental highlight reel.

Our team, for all of its eclectic misfits – some tattooed, some not, some religious, some not, some college educated, some not – is an urban tribe whose members support each other fiercely. 

Last year when my dad died unexpectedly, the team rallied around my mom and me more than a lot of family members did. When my mom doesn’t show up for a game, everyone asks about her. They hug her relentlessly when they see her. They’ve made her a part of this motley team of misfits. For a 78-year-old widow, these new friendships have created a whole new life for her.

It’s nearly the end of the nine-game season, and only one more regular season game is left. Luckily, we’re in the playoffs – a rarity since we’re usually the Bad News Bears. That extra game buys us at least another week of on-field comradeship.

As our league leader – the Grand Poo – likes to say, it’s about “the spirit of the big red ball.” Everyone, at some level, is searching for the spirit. It’s often said that God is everywhere. I just happened to find him between the chalk lines in a dusty city park.

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Written by suziparker1313

March 2, 2011 at 6:08 pm

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