roll roll roll,  August 19th, 2010

TUALATIN, Ore.—Imagine staring down a 6-foot-11 pitcher on the kickball field 14 paces away from home plate. Now imagine that pitcher is really a well-conditioned NBA player.

As Channing Frye prepares for his second season with the Phoenix Suns, he is using kickball as part of his summer workout—and he’s got a nasty fastball.

“We don’t get too many NBA guys out at our fields,” said Colleen Finn of Recess Time Sports Leagues, who was a former field hockey goalkeeper at the University of Louisville before settling in Portland. “He really helps on the pitcher’s “mound.” The pitching in our league can be pretty competitive so it can be hard to get a hold of the ball and keep it fair. He has some mean ball handling skills plus with his reach, anyone kicking against him is going to have to get it out of the infield if they want any chance of getting on base.”

Kickball for adults is a far cry from kids chasing after a rubber ball or running the bases at recess.

“Kickball is hard, man. I played my first year in Portland and it is a workout,” said Frye, who spent two seasons with the Trail Blazers.

Starting Aug. 21, Frye will host his Kick for Kids Kickball Tournament in Portland. The event, in its first year, is presented by the Oregon Active Foundation and the Channing Frye Foundation and will be sponsored by Recess Time Sports Leagues. Built as an all-day family event, the over-18 year-old round-robin tournament includes 36 teams and will feature tunes, eats, the customary microbrew garden, yard games and even a bounce-castle for the kiddos.

“This isn’t a celebrity thing. This is a community thing,” Frye said. ” I want to continue to be part of this community and just give people and kids opportunities they may not have.”

Proceeds from the tournament will be used to sponsor outdoor activities and health education programs at an Adventure Camp that Frye and Oregon Active are building.

So why kickball? Frye wanted a fun, friendly theme that embodied what his adopted hometown is all about.

“For us, kickball was that thing,” he said. “This is about as Portland as it gets.”

Wendell Maxey is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.

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