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Kick out the Jam

WAKA Launches


S.B. Chapter Underneath a beautiful sliver moon and in between rain clouds, the newest old American pastime officially arrived in Santa Barbara two Thursday nights ago. Bouncing red balls and the loud laughter of adults having a bit too much fun could be heard in the fields behind Santa Barbara Junior High as the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) launched its local chapter with an impromptu pick-up game under the twinkling lights of the Riviera. More than 40 people turned out to re-live their glory days of elementary school heroics with an action-packed five-inning kick-fest, marking the official beginning of WAKA’s newest chapter; S.B.’s very own — and appropriately named — Fiesta Division. Our local league is the most recent incarnation of the adult-oriented, libation-fueled red ball love, as big kids across the nation — from Anchorage, Alaska to Portland, Maine — are tuning in and turning on to the pure and sweet bliss that is adult kickball. It is the same game you remember from elementary school, complete with the rippled 10-inch red ball, orange cones, baby bouncing pitches, ghost runners, and a refreshingly well-balanced male-female ratio. A gym-class blend of softball, soccer, and dodge ball, the learning curve in kickball is more akin to somersaulting down a grassy hill than to a skill-involved, committed climb to peak performance that requires protein drinks and spandex shorts. “Once people actually get on the field and get a taste of kicking the ball again, it all comes back to them,” said WAKA’s Orion Walker as he proudly looked out on a field full of new disciples. “Within a matter of minutes you see the quality of play skyrocket and the strategy start to take hold.”

Walker, who looks and acts like a beer-loving version of Skippy from the über ’80s sitcom Family Ties, has been a kickball devotee for the past seven seasons in a Los Angeles-based league and now serves as WAKA’s very own Johnny Appleseed, traveling around California helping plant the seed of kickball love. Having helped sprout local divisions in San Diego, Venice, Hollywood, and Huntington Beach, Walker felt Santa Barbara was the logical next step for the big red ball. “I have been up here quite a bit and just knew there was a kickball community waiting to come out,” said Walker and, before he could elaborate, Courtney Hartstein streaked across home plate with the game’s first score. Running back to her team on the sidelines she exclaimed amongst a flurry of high-fives, “I love kickball! Who knew?!” And Walker just smiles, giving a slight head nod as if to say, “See what I mean?” With rumors of kickball coming to the South Coast bouncing around town last month, Santa Barbaran Brandi Webber, who had played a bit for a friend’s team in San Diego’s Pacific Division, zapped an email of inquiry to WAKA headquarters in Washington D.C. A member of the esteemed fun-monger squad, the Santa Barbara Music Phreaks, Webber is always on the lookout for a good time and — after passing a series of rigorous physical and psychological tests — became the official president of our local chapter. “Basically I got the job because I was the first person to email them a question. … That and I know a lot of people who know how to party,” said Webber, just seconds before her first “at bat.” And judging by the passionate pre-game promise from Walker to all those involved that the night would end with beverages at the Neighborhood Bar, party I.Q. seems to be an appropriate qualification for members of a league called Fiesta. After all, as Walker put it, “Adult kickball is just like elementary school kickball except with adult beverages.”

The Fiesta League already has four teams locked and loaded for the 2006 season complete with a social chair and kickballer-friendly drink specials at The Neighborhood bar on Montecito Street. For the next two months, five-inning games will be played each Thursday night at S.B. Junior High on the Eastside with a season-ending tournament slated to determine the eventual champion. The victorious squad then gets a chance to compete in kickball’s annual penultimate competition later this summer in Washington D.C. — the WAKA Founders Cup World Championship, which is played every July on the lawn in front of the Washington National Monument. Teams max out at 11 players on the field at any one time with a minimum of four females and four males required to play a match. Athletic ability is optional but if the first week’s match is any indication, the Fiesta League is going to be hotly contested. According to President Webber, plans are already in motion for T-shirts and assorted other schwag as well as the ever-important mid-season and post season parties. From the depths of fourth-grade recess, kickball is back and, as one new convert shouted last week, after driving a low-flying single to right field, “It just feels so good!”

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