Strolling onto the fields adjacent to Buttermilk Falls State Park, I experienced a bit of a disconnect. I was going there to cover the opening round of the playoffs for the Ithaca Kickball League, and thoughts of the great playground game of my youth drifted in, eliciting a sigh and a smile. However, when I saw the onsite keg o’ beer, and I learned that the name of one of the teams was the Alcoballics, it threw me off a bit. Then, when I looked at the schedule and saw the Smokin’ Bunts, Drunk and Looking, and We Blue Ourselves, I knew that I was not at my old elementary school.
Upon arrival, I happened upon Scott Rogeau, whose face is a familiar one around Ithaca. Scott is a Downtown Ithaca Alliance employee, and he was acting as the de facto captain of Let’s Go Kicks as the team prepared to take on We Blue Ourselves. His teammate, Brian Reynolds, and former teammate (and Brian’s wife) Stacy were there, and on this day, it was Stacy’s turn to keep track of three-year-old Noah while Brian took the field. “I took this year off, as I just had a baby,” Stacey said. “I still come because it’s a family-friendly experience that is not overly serious, and it gets people out of the house and off their phones.” I asked about the officiating, and Scott explained: “We get players from idle teams to be umpires, and a team gets a half a point in the standings when one of their players umpires.” Of the league’s 20 teams, eight make the playoffs. During the season, Scott offered, “Some teams are here to drink and have fun, and some come to play.” He added, “There have been a few heated exchanges, but no fights.” That is impressive, given that players can drill one another with the ball (although it must be below the neck).
At any given time, a team must field a minimum of three women. When rolled in by the pitcher, the ball has to bounce at least three times, and while there are no walks, a player can strike out with three strikes or four foul balls. The players range from age 21 to some in their late 40s, and Scott offered, “We have seen a lot of pulled hamstrings and rolled plenty of ankles.” He also shared that an ACL tear is not entirely uncommon, and that “an ambulance has been here a couple of times” since the league was founded by Nick Tubbs a few years ago. Ithaca Kickball is sponsored by The Westy, and many players converge there after games. The establishment also hosts the season-opening BBQ, and the post-season awards ceremony. I asked if the $55 entry fee resulted in some serious swag, and Reynolds laughed and said, “We get a t-shirt, a cup and some beer.”
Rogeau pointed out that a lot of the players came over from the softball leagues, given the Sunday afternoons were easier to manage (as opposed to weeknights) and the dwindling numbers experienced by the softball leagues.
“We have a fall league, too,” Scott stated, “but the numbers are much lower, given that’s football season.”
As the players suited up, some looked more serious than others. While many wore shorts, Kate Edsall looked more like a ballplayer, pulling her softball pants over her sliding shorts, and she told me, “I have played a lot of softball—in high school, at TC3—and I have played in many leagues.”
When the game got underway, the kilt-clad umpire with dual ponytails and a sudsy beard gave Rogeau a hard time when the pitcher’s offerings barely bounced before crossing the plate. The wind kicked up, making catching balls kicked into the air an adventurous endeavor, and on one particular play, it appeared that two fielders were channeling their inner volleyball players. A line drive was blasted into the outfield, the wind caused it to corkscrew wildly, and the fielder took it off the chest when trying to corral it. He got his hand on it, causing it to carom into the air, only to be snatched up by his alert teammate.
Another interesting play took place when a fly ball landed fair in right field, and was turned into a triple by a gust of wind that blew it well into foul territory.
The rain rolled in, but the game continued and Let’s Go Kicks entered the final inning trailing 3- 2. They bounced back, scoring three runs to win the game, leaving We Blue Ourselves feeling blue indeed. The playoffs resume next weekend and will wrap up the following weekend.