POSTED ON JULY 24, 2013:
Young Hearts and Red Balls
If you can dodge a wrench...
Most people believe they're young at heart.
Locals come together on Friday nights at Patrick Park and get the chance to feel young again in the form of kickball.
The sport that dominated school recesses is back in session during the summer, but this is not your regular kickball league.
"You're playing a fifth grade sport with adult beverages," Michelle Sorensen said about the league.
COURTESY OF WAKA
Sorensen, a Broken Arrow native, is the head of the Tulsa World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) league and is also a community coordinator for the kickball conglomerate.
"I work on the permits, find sponsors, and parties," Sorensen said describing her job description. "I'm constantly working my tail off for 20-25 hours a week."
After three years of being a player in the league and setting up the league parties, Sorensen made the leap to taking over the league last season and has worked with a true passion to promote the league around town even for a very minimal wage.
That doesn't discourage Sorensen, though.
"I do it for the love of the game," she said.
The league is currently run by WAKA, a company created 15 years ago in Washington D.C. in a place where many dreams have been created but never realized: a bar.
Since then, WAKA has moved into 35 states across the nation with states like California, Florida, and Texas each having up to 12-15 leagues.
In 2010, Inc. Magazine named the growing business as one of its fastest-growing private companies in America and is widely recognized as the nation's premier kickball organization.
Oklahoma currently has two main leagues in the state in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, but expansion to other cities throughout the state is something Sorensen would like to see happen.
"You want to expand, it's the kind of recreational for anybody and everybody. Maybe start a league in Owasso, Glenpool, and Stillwater," Sorensen said.
While expansion is still in planning stages, the summer league is in full effect.
Consisting of ten teams (among them, Where My Pitches At?, KILFs, Looking to Score, and Quit your Pitchin'), the WAKA league requires each team to have at least eight men and eight women on its roster, with a maximum number of 26 players.
The teams participate in theme nights throughout the season, and kickballers don costumes that reflect the theme, but also allow the athletes to play relatively unhindered. This season, themes have ranged from Red, White, and Brew in honor of the fourth of July to Superhero night.
The league has about 170 players averaging between 35 and 40 years of age, and each player brings his own unique background -- and often a big enough personality to fill an entire outfield.
Kickballer Marcu Makar is a former trapeze artist and has been petitioning to have a trapeze park built in his backyard so that others can come and have fun and learn about the art that he loves. So yeah, that kind of outfield-filling personality. Makar has also been known to play a game of kickball dressed as a genie.
Getting to know each member is exciting in its own right, but the real fun begins though when the first pitch of that red rubber ball is thrown.
While many of the rules are similar to those of schoolyard days, there are a few wrinkles to the game.
Hitting people in the face has become something of a YouTube sensation these days, and while it is allowed during games, it can only happen if the runner is sliding into a base, giving the defender free reign to turn their opponent into the next big hit on the internet.
COURTESY OF WAKA
If he's not sliding, players can only hit the runner from the shoulders down.
Another rule that gives the game a little extra kick is that players are allowed to bring their alcoholic beverages on the field with them as they play defense.
So whether you're standing on the pitcher's mound or out in centerfield, you can stand back and sip on your favorite adult libation in between pitches or while the action is going on.
Alcohol proves to be a big part of not only the level of fun a player has during their time at the park, but also in the league itself, as Anheuser Busch is one of the sponsors along with a local bar.
This season, The Yeti is the bar sponsor for the league. Bars like The Maxx and Woody's have offered their sponsorships in the past. Each bar hosts the players at the end of each night as players from opposing teams come to meet and greet, talk smack (these are athletes, after all), and take in the bar's atmosphere.
While this all sounds like a great time (and it is), that doesn't mean there aren't teams that aren't in it to win it.
There is even a strategy to winning games in the league. Baseball terms come to mind when thinking of how teams thrive in the league.
Teams that thrive offensively and in the league rely on speed, pitching and bunting. Yes, you read that right: bunting is a major aspect of a team's offensive success.
The league champions from spring, summer, and fall qualify to attend the World Kickball Championships in Las Vegas in the beginning of October, but other teams or players are allowed to go as well and enjoy the ESPN-televised experience as up to 400 players come from across the nation to the city of sin to have fun and play kickball.
Cruises and additional tournaments are also a part of the league's schedule throughout the year, giving members other opportunities to take in everything WAKA has to offer.
The most important aspect of the league though, according to Sorensen, isn't the drinking or the sport itself. It's the opportunity to meet new people and create new lasting relationships with teammates and other members of the league whether it's local or through the other scheduled
"I want people to enjoy their time, make new friends and meet new people," she said.
Possibly even a future spouse?
"I've been to players weddings who've met here and there are others who've met and now have kids together," Sorensen said.
COURTESY OF ART EVERYWHERE PHOTOGRAPHY
As Sorensen continues to build the league into one of the premier recreational sports in the city, the WAKA league gives those working the usual 9-5 job a chance to release any stress and getting to feel young again, even if it's only for one night a week.
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