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Kickball bounces into the big leagues

An American childhood pastime makes a comeback among 20- and 30-somethings who like to kick back while they compete.

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The runner rounds third and pounds toward home plate. With the ball still stuck in the outfield, a home run looks inevitable.

But the grass, slick from the drizzling rain, proves to be the defense's greatest ally. The runner slips, and with cartoon-like acrobatics, flies through the air and lands flat on his face.

Just as he gets to his feet, the third baseman throws the large yellow rubber ball at the target on the back of the runner's team shirt, tagging him out.

No, this isn't a strange version of baseball or softball. This is kickball, that great American childhood pastime, the same game you loved as a kid.

But these Boston players aren't children – or even teens. They're adults. And this isn't a casual pickup game but part of an organized league.

Fun is Rule No. 1

The Boston Ski and Sports Club organizes leagues for a variety of other sports such as softball, soccer, volleyball, and basketball. But there was a push for less competitive games, so kickball was added to the schedule this past June.

"It's so nice to be in a league where you hear so much laughter," says Janis Chicatell, the club's kickball coordinator. When runners fall, or when the ball is overthrown, or not thrown far enough, the response is always laughter – and encouragement.

Response to the new league has been tremendous. Notices on the club's website and in e-mail lists generated so much interest that some people had to be turned away.

Throwback to childhood

Part of the attraction is pure nostalgia. The game allows players, who are mostly in their 20s and 30s, to relive some of their carefree childhood memories. And every player gets to feel like an athlete. There are no playground rejects here.

Women, especially, are drawn to the game because it is less competitive, and they don't feel overpowered in the coed league. Men's greater strength isn't as much of an advantage in kickball as it may be in more physical sports, and they don't have the advantage of having played it in high school or college.


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