The hollow thunk of a foot hitting a rubber ball rang out across Grant Park on Sunday afternoon. Dog-walkers, bike-riders and others out for a leisurely stroll paused to watch the unusual action.
“Um. It looks like they’re playing kickball,” a man said to his companion.
“Oh my gosh! They are,” she replied.
There’s nothing unusual about kickball – it was the age of the players that drew attention.
Sunday marked the launch of the second season of the BigFoot KickBall League. The league consists of seven teams from local restaurants/bars, and the players ranged from the college-set to the gray-haired, young at heart group.
The league is the brainchild of Isaac Gordon, 35, owner of the LeftBank Wine Bar in downtown Spokane.
Six years ago, Gordon moved here from South Carolina. “There was a service industry kickball league there, but I never got to play because I was always working,” he said.
So, last year he formed the BigFoot league, recruiting players 21 and older to form workplace teams.
Why kickball? Gordon grinned. “It’s a kid’s game, but anyone can be good at it – it’s unlike any other game.”
That’s not to say it’s not competitive – especially when there’s a trophy involved. Gordon brought the trophy to the park on Sunday to show the teams what was at stake. Its chrome and gold-colored accents sparkled in shiny splendor in the afternoon sun, a red rubber ball nestled in its cup.
“My granddad, Jack Gordon, sponsored the trophy, so I named it the ‘Jack Cup,’ ” Gordon said.
As to its size and splendor, he said, “I like to win, so I wanted a big one.” Then he grinned. “I plan on having it stay at the LeftBank.”
The first game of the season pitted the Perry Street Brewing Bitters against the Ruins/Stella Runs.
The Bitters marched toward the field wearing gold shirts, lugging coolers and carrying rubber balls.
When an observer remarked, “You look intimidating!” coach Erica Williamson replied, “Well. We’re bitter.”
But the air of intimidation melted in the good-natured joking that ensued. The malty aroma of beer was noticeable, as part of the team’s pregame warm-up consisted of quaffing quantities of the beverage. Beer is also an important part of the postgame wrap-up. As a team-member pointed out, “The brewery is just up the street.”
Coach Williamson said their strategy was simple: “Aim low. Run fast. Have fun.”
Meanwhile, the Runs shrugged on their gray T-shirts as their coach called out the starting line-up.
“I haven’t played since grade school,” admitted member Zach Liljenberg.
The rules are similar to softball and aren’t much different for the grown-ups than they are for kids on the playground – the major difference is there’s an extra person in the outfield.
“We don’t want to have to run too much,” explained Gordon.
There’s also no sliding and no throwing the ball at someone’s head – things new players quickly discovered.
Games are six innings or 45 minutes, whichever comes first.
The Runs took an early lead Sunday. Liljenberg grinned as he rounded third base. “It’s all coming back to me, now!”
The Iron Goat Brew Ballers arrived in time to watch part of the game. Coach Greg Brandt was concerned about rumors that their opponents might forfeit. “We didn’t win a single game last season,” he said. “We have a perfect record. We don’t want to spoil it with a win today.”
Shouts from the field caught his attention as the game heated up.
A Runs player kicked a soft bunt, leaving the Bitters pitcher scrambling to pick it up. The bases were loaded and the tension mounted. “Polish that trophy!” called Runs player Heather Swanstrom from first base.
The Bitters were down, but not out. A few minutes later, Williamson said, “Hey! We got a point!”
Soon, they had two points and then three, as a player rushed for home plate. “Run Forrest, run!” yelled his teammates.
But the Runs answered and pulled off a 4-3 victory. Team hugs and cheers rang out from both sides of the field. After all, there are plenty of games left in the season and plenty of cold beer waiting just up the street.
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