Suffolk becoming kickball capital

Published 9:34 pm Monday, October 18, 2010

Balls N’ Dolls won the regular season and tournament championships, going undefeated through both, for the Suffolk Parks and Recreation 2010 Kickball League. Kneeling, from left, is David Strickland, Brian Bennett and Rick Evans; standing, from left, is Meagan Dietchman, Anna Russell, Chris Joyce, Will Parker, Cristine Pisani, John Branch, Vinnie Pisani, Matt Revelle, Angie Thompson, Jonathan Thompson, Kelly Outlaw and Candace Evans. Not pictured is Josh Worrell.

John Branch wanted to start an adult kickball league in Suffolk in 2007 but there was a problem. His team was the only one.

He came back to Suffolk Parks and Recreation to form a league for ’08. There needed to be at least four teams before the department started a league. Getting a bunch of friends together, Branch got enough players for four teams, plus a Parks and Recreation team made it five for the initial season.

After three seasons, the sport, usually a game kids grow out of once there’s no such thing as recess, continues to take off. The league’s grown to nine teams as of the past season in the spring and summer.

Email newsletter signup

“Some guys are still on their original teams and some went out and started their own teams after a season or two,” John said.

The 2010 season ended with Balls N’ Dolls, John’s team, winning the regular season and tournament titles for the third straight year.

Stopping the dynasty is why some veterans started new squads and recruited more friends. It’s why Jeremy Branch, John’s brother, is on Shake N’ Bake, the 2010 runners-up.

“There are three brothers who are now on separate teams,” Jeremy said. “Everyone just wants to beat John’s team.”

More importantly, “with all the Suffolk teams, we all know each other,” John said. “It makes it fun because everyone’s pretty much best friends.”

“When we’re out at Peanut Park a lot of people riding by will stop and watch. They tell us it’s fun to watch and players’ friends and family come out,” John said. Having fans is great, but so is having a promising recruiting pool for next season.

Sure, the game’s largely the same as recess, but only on the surface.

While Suffolk’s league is still young, like many adult kickball leagues around the nation it follows World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) rules.

It’s easy to think of kickball as booting the ball, racing around the bases, outs rarely being made and score, if it’s kept, being closer to a football game. Not so out at Peanut Park.

“The better teams, when they play each other, the games are tight and lower-scoring,” John said.

Balls N’ Dolls beat Shake N’ Bake 7-6 in nine innings (two extra innings) in the tournament final.

“Everyone thinks they can kick the ball over everything, to the other side of the road,” Jeremy said, “but most of the kicks go about 15 yards into the outfield at most.”

“Some pitch as fast as they can. Some sidearm it. You can have it bounce across the plate,” John said.

A new season is set for spring and the Branches think a few more teams will come into the league. There’s still time to put a team together (WAKA rules are 11 players in the field) and see why it’s catching on.

“It’s just a lot of fun. It’s competitive, but everyone has a lot of good times out there,” John said.