By Joe Fitzgibbon
Adult players recapture childhood fun in the Northwest Kickball League, one of many such groups across the nation.
The fields are lumpy. The uniforms, makeshift. Practices are irregular or nonexistent.
But that’s just why the players like it.
“It’s really laid back and hassle-free,” said Brian Prosser, co-captain of Dr. D’s Commandos, one of the 15 kickball teams that will be starting their second season of play in the Northwest Kickball League. “For a few people it’s a chance to relive their elementary school days, but most of us see this as a chance to socialize and have a lot of fun.”
Former Chicagoan Colleen Finn, now of Portland, started the league two years ago after playing a couple of pick up games with friends.
“Mostly, I thought that it would be a great way to meet people,” said Finn, who is captain of the Mount Hoodlums. “We started with eight teams last year and so far this year we’ve nearly doubled the number of teams and players. The word is getting out.”
On Wednesday evenings, starting around 6 p.m., mixed-gender teams – some in matching T-shirts and caps, others in cutoffs and frayed sweats – meet at Hosford Middle School in Southeast Portland for an hour-long game. Players are at least 21 years old and sign a waiver against injury.
After most games, participants adjourn to a local bar for refreshments and good-natured teasing.
“We really want this to be an adults-only league, especially since our sponsor is the East Bank Saloon,” Finn said. “We don’t expect anyone to get injured, but we had someone fall in a big hole in center field the other day.”
Teams field 11 players, four of whom must be women. Games played on the middle school softball diamond using a heavy, inflated 10-inch red ball. Unlike softball or baseball, players kick the ball and fielders can throw at the torsos of the runners.
All other playground rules are in force, with two umpires calling outs and settling disputes.
When asked if there is a strategy in place when his team plays, Mike Martin, who played several positions with the Portland East Sliders, laughed.
“Well, sure. Sort of,” he said. “If someone is a big kicker, the fielders move back, and then, of course the person will bunt.” The pitcher is really the one who tries to control the game.”
As a way to mix fun with competition, Finn has organized an end of season tournament for Aug. 14, complete with prizes.
“You really have to see the thrilled expression on the players’ faves when they kick the ball, just as they remember it from the fourth and fifth grade,” Finn said.