Kick that ball

I’m not here to write about the White Sox’s surprising start or the exciting 10th anniversary logo that the Titans recently revealed.

Let’s talk about the beautiful game. I made the fateful decision to captain a company kickball team. After struggling with the basics, like a league that wouldn’t support my company paying for the entire team at once, we were ready to go. Last season, I assumed the captaincy of the team after the original team leader went on a six-week training trip to the Philippines. Out of a 25-person roster, we had trouble getting enough people to play on a weekly basis. I was determined to make sure that didn’t happen this year.

Week one was a learning experience. Even though I drove to the field in advance of the game and sent directions, a couple of people got lost. This league is a bit cheap, so instead of having paid refs, teams have to provide refs. I had to attend a ref clinic instead of gathering my team prior to game one. We got a 20-page booklet that explained the rules. I was glad that we would play a game before playing ref.

We had 13 people show up for the first week. My first task was coming up with a “kicking” lineup and figuring out where everyone went on the field. There are 11 people on the field for kickball. It’s kind of crowded. Also there is a rule that four females have to be on the field at once. I started week one with a five infielder and four outfielder alignment. I pitched, which is really rolled.

In last year’s league, the strategy was to have the pitcher “rush” the kicker, because most of the women bunt. If you bunt to the third base side, it’s really hard to throw someone out at first. The ball is ten inches in diameter. One advantage of kickball over baseball is that you can throw people out by hitting them with the ball. If you miss, the ball is still in play. Not good.

Our first game was against a team called Joe T’s Warriors. There was no advance scouting reports. At the start the Warriors, even the guys, bunted a lot and we struggled. Our two soccer players, Aedren and Kevin, came through in the three and four hole of the kicking order, knocking in all five runs in a 5-2 win. Was it this easy?

We reffed a 1-0 kicker’s duel. During the ref clinic, the WAKA rep told us that an official game was five innings. Our game was over in about 30 minutes. In the nightcap, we found out that a game could go as far as seven innings. We felt somewhat gypped but at the same time we won.

Another quirk of kickball, at least in this league, is that fouls and strikes are not the same thing. It’s hard to strike out, since the strike zone is one foot to either side of the plate. Fouling out, which is four fouls, happens every once in a while.

In week two I was smart enough to create a kicking order and put everyone on the field. There were two problems. In week one it was about 70 degrees. In week two it was 50 and cloudy. In Atlanta, that’s pretty darn cold. Because of this, no one warmed up prior to the game. We just huddled together and waited to meet our nemesis, Swift Kick in the Grass.

It was a 2-2 tie in the top of the fourth when it started falling apart. We cycled in one of our guys at catcher when the team started bunting a lot. That led to issues in the outfield. With players on first and second, I got a force-out at second when I should have taken out the lead runner. A drop in the outfield led to two runs scoring. We were down 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth. Three of our players had pulled quad muscles. Kicking the ball is tough on the body, since you have to balance on one foot and kick a somewhat heavy ball. If you’re not warmed up, you can pull something.

The inning started with two singles. I came up to the plate. I inserted myself at the second spot of the lineup. It was a mistake, since I hadn’t figured out how to kick yet. My first kick was a pop-up (easy to do). I tried a bunt my second time up. Sadly, my bunt didn’t go to third. It went directly to the pitcher. The third time I had an epic at-kick.

I took the first two pitches. One was a ball and the other was a bouncy strike. I kicked at the third one and it went foul to first base. I turned on the fourth pitch, which landed just foul to the third base side. That’s what I was trying to do. On the fifth pitch I knocked the ball past the third baseman. A run scored. I was on first base, the tying run with our sluggers coming up. We were going to pull off an improbable rally. In two pitches it all went wrong as both guys popped up.

We lost. Our players limped off the field and we chatted for a bit. Way more people asked me how the team did after the loss as opposed to after our victory. It’s tough not to take the losses personally. At least as captain I can choose to not listen to the advice of fellow teammates.

Box score line of the week: Dontrelle Willis gave up one hit in five innings against the Sox yesterday. He also walked seven (and struck out zero). The Sox like to swing at almost anything, so being a bit wild can be a good strategy. I’m pretty happy with the start against two tough division rivals on the road. I’d like to see a win in tonight’s series finale on ESPN2. It’s not like the Sox are going to be a regular fixture on Sunday Night baseball.

Week two wasn’t as fortunate. Our opponent was Swift Kick in the Grass.

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