Now in his second season playing adult coed kickball, Mark Mangrem has learned something valuable about this recreational league sport: It’s not as easy as it looks.
“You think that, ‘Oh, kickball. I was great in third grade. This is going to be easy,’” said Mangrem, senior pastor of Gospel City Church in Pantego. “Once you get out there, it’s not that easy. The ball’s bigger. The bases are farther. You’re older, fatter.”
Mangrem plays on a team called the Black Knights. It’s one of six teams from Gospel City Church participating in the city of Arlington’s kickball league at Randol Mill Park. The sport is played with a big red ball on one of the park’s softball fields.
“We played last year just on a whim,” Mangrem said. “We had three teams. [Chris Schwartz], who runs it for the city, has done a good job of making it fun for everybody, and this year we have six teams. We just had such a fun time last year and this year had 84 people sign up.”
Tim Baggett, Arlington Parks and Recreation’s athletic sports manager, started the kickball league in 2012, thinking the city’s residents might get a kick out of playing a sport that’s a mainstay of elementary schools. He was right. These days, there’s 20 teams in the summer league. Arlington also offers adult kickball in the fall and spring.
“I think the appeal is it’s different,” said Schwartz, the city’s athletic sports coordinator, who oversees the league and plays in it. “You don’t have to be a superstar with a glove. Anyone can come out and play: young and old, male and female. I think the appeal is that it’s fun. It’s different. It’s definitely not the same old thing.”
On a hot Tuesday evening in mid-June, a team called The Blue Crew took on a team called Rojo Caliente. Both were from Gospel City. The Blue Crew comprised members of the church’s youth group, while Rojo Caliente was made up of adults. And on this night, the grown-ups got the better of the teens, winning 5-1.
“I enjoyed it,” said Hunter Moyer of Rojo Caliente, who drove in one of her team’s runs. “I played soccer back in high school. This is fun for me.”
Moyer found the kicking portion of the game easy. Trying to catch the big red ball as a fielder proved a bit more challenging to the 22-year-old. “It’s really fun because we’re getting to know each other and connect,” Moyer said. “We looked funny, but we had fun.”
Umpire Scott Morgan, who is a police officer in Westworth Village, said officiating the games provides a bit of welcome stress-relief. Most of the players in the kickball league are just out there to have a good time, Morgan said. “It’s fun — and it should be,” Morgan said. “Sometimes you have those people who are way too serious.”
For Mangrem, the best part of the evening might be after the game. “The fun part isn’t only playing,” Mangrem said. “We gather under a shade tree. Everybody brings a cooler and something to share.”
Arlington’s Caleb Carter was honored as District 4-6A’s Defensive MVP, while Bowie’s Josh Llamas took Freshman of the Year and Arlington’s Michael Baumann was Newcomer of the Year.
Pitchers Eric Walker (Martin), Tanner McCaskey (Arlington) and Nick Johnson (Bowie) were all first-teamers.
Jose Guitierrez (Lamar) was named first-team first baseman, Cade Varrichio (Bowie) was the first-team shortstop, Shaughn Kelly (Lamar) was the first-team utility player and outfielders Wesley Powell (Lamar) and Jacob Dominguez (Bowie) were also first-team selections.
The Arlington Soccer Association will hold tryouts for its competitive teams beginning July 1 at the Harold Patterson Complex.
Information and registration: www.arlingtonsoccer.org.
Youth summer athletics
Arlington Parks and Recreation is registering for youth volleyball and a lacrosse clinic. Both cost $75.
The lacrosse clinic is July 6 and is for ages 7-12, while the volleyball league is for ages 9-14 and begins competition on July 16.
YMCA summer sports camps
The Arlington YMCA will be hosting a summer soccer camp Aug. 8-11. The camp will cost $19 for members and $75 for program members and is for ages 5-14.
Soccer camp will be held at the Cooper Street YMCA.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74