Local kickball league competes to play in Vegas

August 6, 2018

HUNTINGTON - While the Olympic Pool in West Huntington has long been filled in, summer excitement lives on at the location through the Jewel City Kickball league, which held its playoffs at the location Sunday.

The Old Olympic Pool Field was filled Sunday with a tailgate-type atmosphere, which included good music, dogs, drinks, food and, of course, kickball, as teams squared off for a chance to compete in Las Vegas.

For drivers on Memorial Boulevard near West 14th Street, the site of grown adults playing the childhood game with the same level of enthusiasm as school children would have been enough to make one jealous.

Jewel City Kickball, founded in 2009, was created as a way to bring together adults from around the Tri-State to play everyone’s favorite school gym-time game. Growing to nearly 150 players this season, the games take place every Sunday throughout the summer, leading up to the Paul Martin Championship Game in August, which was named after a kickballer who died in 2013.

Christopher Nottingham, who has been with the league for six years, summed up the league in three words.

“Fun. Socialization. Community” he said.

As Sunday’s playoff went on, a crowd a spectators and teammates, along with some of their favorite canines, enjoyed the summer weather, cheering on their friends as if it were the Super Bowl.

Angela Nottingham, team Grapes of Wrath, joined the league in 2009 when friends moved from Boston and one day asked her if she wanted to play kickball in Huntington. Although her team hasn’t won a game in two years, you couldn’t tell by her excitement on and off the field.

“For us, the Grapes, it’s not about that. We only go 85 percent. We just really want to have fun, a good time. That’s basically it,” she said. There is a positive in that Taylor Strickland from Austin’s Ice Cream is now playing with the team and brings ice cream, she said.

Christopher Nottingham agreed.

“The kickball league isn’t about winning as much as it is about socialization, like meeting new people or just getting together with your friends. We have one team that’s comprised almost entirely of childhood friends. This is a way for them to keep playing together. On the other side, it’s a great way to meet people.”

Kathryn Garrett, co-captain of Pitches Be Crazy, has been with the league for five years and said she used it as a way to make new friends after college.

“We are just a bunch of adults who like to come together on Sundays and play kickball, enjoy the good weather and be active in the community,” she said. “It gets people out and active, and everyone’s competitive nature comes out, too.”

Each year, the league focuses on building community relationships and giving back to Huntington. The focus in 2018 is to give financial donations to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and to collect items for Advocates Saving Adoptable Pets, a local animal rescue.

A blanket on the ground was covered in pet food and cleaning supplies for ASAP, and GHPRD received a $1,000 check to go toward the St. Clouds’ inclusive playground, a one-of-a-kind playground in the Tri-State.

Kevin Brady, head of the city’s park district, said while the check is nice, the league offers something that money cannot.

“This is such a cool arrangement that these people come out on Sunday, they bring their own tents, they bring their own portable toilets, they paint their lines themselves,” he said. “We don’t have to come and pick up after them. We don’t have to come and search for anything. This is such a good group, and we don’t see any problems out of them.”

Brady said the St. Clouds’ inclusive playground has started site preparations and $500,000 worth of playground equipment is shipping out next week. He expects the park will be up and running within three months, but it will continue to grow after that. The park board is a little over halfway toward its total fundraising goal.

Those interested in joining the league next year can seek more information by sending an e-mail to info@jewelcitykickball.com. There is room for everyone, Angela Nottingham said.

“I just want people to know this is a fun, friendly league. Even if you have weekend obligation. Even if you have children. There are children here. There are puppies here. There are snacks. This happens almost every weekend. It’s always a good time, and it’s after church. It’s a big plus.”

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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