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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