Sawmills is fired up for kickball

Jul. 20, 2014 @ 06:34 AM

The heat of the July sun baked the field and players at Sawmills Veterans Park. A small crowd cheered encouragement from the sidelines, including the mayor of Sawmills, Bob Gibbs, sitting in a fold-out chair with a floppy sunhat on his bald head.

On the field, the Caldwell EMS Defibrillators faced a team Google employees -- it has no name -- in a close game of kickball. Sweat poured down their faces as the Defibrillators guarded the field and Google was up to kick. Pitcher Josh Potter rolled back his arm and whipped the rubber, red kickball toward home plate. The kicker sent the ball sailing high in the air until it was a round dot against an endless blue sky.

Alas, as it fell back to Earth, it landed with a heavy thunk in the arms of the Defibrillators' Carson McRae, who breathed a sigh of relief.

"If I hadn't caught that," he called out to his teammates, "it would have knocked my lights out!"

The second year of the Sawmills Kickball League kicked off a little more than a week ago. The games feature not only intense matches of competition, but moments of spectacle, as when Travis Davenport's swung his leg and sent not only the kickball but his right shoe flying across the field.

The idea for the league traveled up to Sawmills from South Carolina. Benny Townsend, Sawmills' parks and recreation director, was traveling in Henderson, S.C., a few years ago as a baseball umpire when he noticed a kickball tournament gong on at the same fields.

“I was amazed,” Townsend said.

He originally thought it would make a good youth league here. But he was stunned to get more interest from adults wanting to play their favorite childhood recess game.

“This offers a sport to people who aren’t into the softball thing,” Townsend said. “There seems to be a need for an alternative sport for adults and young adults.”

Last year, there were five teams. This year, there are eight.

Charlie Church, captain of the Mount Zion Baptist Church team, which last year won the championship, said adults enjoy kickball because of how the game is played.

"Anyone can play. There's not a whole lot of chance in getting hurt. I think it's pretty low-impact, unlike softball or any of the other sports you play," he said.

Bobby McKelvey, a Google employee in the operations department, said he enjoys the "fun" and the "exercise."

"I played softball a lot but never kickball. (I enjoy the) competition," McKelvey said.

The league plays by the rules and uses a ball approved by the World Adult Kickball Association. Townsend said that the games are “laid-back,” and he has never had to deal with any “fussing or fighting” from irked players.

“It’s not as competitive as adult softball or kids' softball,” Townsend said.