By Brian Lichterman | Sports Editor
With so many beautiful parks in Newport Beach, it’s a shame our city doesn’t play host to one of my favorite childhood games.
Kickball is rapidly becoming the new softball in certain circles. They play in other nearby cities, but not here, so consider this Newport Beach’s official plea to have kickball in our city.
Kickball is also played all over the country, not only by schoolchildren, but by adults, in parks and baseball fields everywhere. Although many organizations have small leagues or pickup games, the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) is by far the biggest organization of kickball in the country. They even have a yearly tournament for division winners, in Las Vegas every fall.
If you’re not familiar with the game or you just don’t remember the rules, I’ll give you a refresher:
The best way to describe the game is a cross between soccer and baseball, with a little bit of dodgeball mixed in for good measure. You typically play on a baseball diamond with measured bases and a pitching mound that conform to WAKA’s specifications. The ball is a medium-sized flubber ball.
Games with WAKA rules run five innings, unless time constraints or the rules of the park or field dictate otherwise.
The game starts just like baseball does, with the pitcher pitching to a batter. The pitch is rolled from the mound, and to be a legal pitch, it must bounce twice before it gets to the plate and must not bounce higher than the batter’s knees as it crosses. Just like baseball you get four balls for a walk and three misses for a strikeout. Also, four foul balls is a strikeout, which happens more often that you’d think.
Once the ball is put in play the fielders have two options; field the ball and throw it to the base or tag it themselves before the runner gets there, or hit the runner with the ball anywhere from the neck down! However, if you’re sliding into a base, you give up all safety for your head and face.
Strategies of many teams are to have their fastest players up first and have them bunt to get on base so that the big boppers can knock them in. The reason faster people are able to bunt successfully is that the first and third basemen have to stay even with the mound until the player touches the ball, as does the pitcher, and the catcher can’t come out from behind home plate until the batter touches the ball either.
From then on the game plays just like a baseball game, arguments and all.
It’s a coed game played with seven men and four women on the field at all times. Although you’re required to have more players on your roster because of illness and scheduling, 11 is the bare minimum.
Since we’re not in middle school anymore, another fun thing about the WAKA leagues is that each division has a sponsor bar that gives the players deals on food and drinks after the game, as long as they’re wearing their team shirts. It’s a great way for 20- and 30-somethings to get out and be social with other local singles and it’s a great way to make friends.
If sports and bars don’t scream Newport Beach, I don’t know what does.
Kickball has all of the competitiveness of baseball and the charm of a childhood game. Newport has so many parks and wide open spaces that it’s frankly astonishing to me that this cult phenomenon hasn’t made it to us yet.
So come on WAKA, give us a league already – it w