Most participants hadn’t played kickball since elementary school … if ever.
“I think I played in fifth grade, but I’m older, so that was a long time ago,” said Dan Hernandez, a member of the Misfits team.
“I’ve never played kickball or at least not that I can remember,” said Krystlyn Giedt, another Misfit and president of the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau.
Lack of recent experience didn’t stop them and a few dozen other enthusiastic players from entering the first adult kickball tournament organized by the city of Half Moon Bay at Smith Field on Friday. No one under 18 years old was allowed on the team — and by the look of it, no one needed to check identification.
The first round of action pit the Misfits, who already had jerseys from their entry in a softball league, against Kicking Grass and Taking Names, a group consisting of some city staff and friends. Maggie Rodriguez, executive assistant to City Manager Bob Nisbet, motivated Kicking Grass with her enthusiasm and used her administrative savvy to keep the lineup organized.
Taylor Callan, who works in the Half Moon Bay Recreation Department, called the captains to home plate to refresh their memories on the rules of the playground game. The pitcher rolls the ball slowly toward the plate and the kicker must make contact with the ball while it is in the batter’s, or kicker’s, box. Each team can field up to 10 players, and as many kickers can come to the plate as the team wants.
Kickers get only two strikes to put the ball in play. If they take three pitches out of the strike zone then they place the 10-inch rubber ball 2 feet in front of home plate and launch a free kick. Fielders can throw out runners by hitting them with the ball below the waist or with more conventional baseball plays at the bases.
Callan said that organizing kickball games just seemed like a good idea. “It’s a game anyone can jump in and play.” The department had some time available and the weather is getting nice, he said, so they gave it a try. All six team slots filled quickly after the tournament was announced through social media and on the city website.
It took players a few innings to rediscover their feel for the game. Kicking the ball out of the infield proved more difficult than expected and mostly ended up in pop-up outs. Fielders had had some trouble catching the bouncy ball before mastering the art of cradling the catch in their arms.
After a few scoreless innings the teams put together some strategic bunts and kicks into gaps between fielders to bring runners around. Kicking Grass jumped into the lead, but the Misfits surged late to make it close. The first game went into extra innings but not due to a tie. Everyone was having too much fun to quit and players arriving for the next game became spectators joining in the playful spirit.
In the second game the Baywood Bombers, a group of ringers from over the hill, walloped the Highkickers, 16-0. The absence of local brews in their koozies made them the clear visitors.
The playoffs took place the next evening with Kicking Grass and Taking Names returning to face Baywood. The visitors continued their domination. In the third-place game, the Highkickers prevailed in a close battle, 10-9, over the Misfits.
Afterward the teams headed to Cameron’s Pub and Restaurant where the victors were given some pitchers of beer and wings in recognition of their competitive dominance in a tournament others treated more as a playful gathering.
The Recreation Department has two more tournaments planned for June 24-25 and July 29-30. Sign-ups are open on the city website, https://www.half-moon-bay.ca.us/843/Kickball.