In this era of video games, streaming entertainment, and 24/7 TV channels loaded with big time sports contests, the popularity of the H-F Park District’s Adult Co-Rec Kickball League is a phenomenon.
From June to late August, Thursday nights are kickball nights. Friends, neighbors, families, couples and singles trade their home screens for seats on park grass to watch whimsically named teams play the 100-year-old schoolyard game, which is built on elements of soccer, softball, baseball and a hint of dodgeball. It can be played by people of all ages.
As a result, both kickball fans and participants span all demographics, and in Homewood the games are as much social gatherings as they are sports events. The spectators interact, talk with each other, and cheer on the players as if they were watching the Superbowl. It’s the very definition of community.
Kat Borham of Homewood is one of the league’s most veteran players. She has been playing since the league was started by a group of H-F High School math teachers in 2010. She said that joining that newly formed league was her first foray into participatory sports, and she has not missed a season since, except for 2020 when the league suspended play because of COVID.
“This year I’m so excited because I put it out on Facebook but was not sure if people would respond,” Borham said. “It [HF Kickball League] is listed in the H-F Park District book, but they don’t really promote it.”
Borham, whose team is the Diamond Dogs, said that more than 100 people signed up for this year’s summer league, and that the robust response required a schedule expansion.
“Last year we ended up with six teams, and this year there are eight,” she said. “It is the first year that we are fielding four games per night in two parks — at 6:30 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m.”
For Diamond Dog Emily McEowen of Homewood, playing kickball is a way to be active while minimizing the risk of injury. “You play softball with a group of people this age and you’re likely to get hurt,” McEowen said. “You play kickball and you can be competitive and play a sport you really enjoy and have a really low chance of getting injured. And this is important.”
Homewood resident Will Beattie said the Thursday July 13 game was his first as a spectator but that he had played the game previously — when he was 7. He said he was there to watch his son, Maklen, an H-F High School alumnus, play for the Dogs. He added that he had brought his two granddaughters, Audi and Alexa Bjorkland, to the game to see their uncle Mak play and suggested that they might have something to say about the sport.
After just a couple of innings of watching, both Audi, 9, and Alexa, 7, were itching to try the game. “I just want to get onto that field,” Audi said. The girls had their chance and gave it a try after the regular game was over.
The night’s scorekeeper, Brenda Feehery of Homewood, also has been with the league from its inception, and her son, Shane, has carried on the tradition. Shane was the Diamond Dogs pitcher July 13 and notched a 3-2 win for the Dogs, who were playing the Kicks and Giggles team.
When asked, Brenda Feehery explained the rules of the game, the art of keeping score for kickball, and the surprising secret to the Diamond Dogs’ success. She said there are balls and strikes, outs, and foul balls, but no base stealing and limited use of the hands. There is an official score sheet that is filled out by hand, much like the ones golfers use, too. But Feehery said her team’s real secret is practice — or lack thereof. “A few other teams practice,” she said, “but we don’t.” Whatever works.
Homewood’s Kickball regular season ends Aug. 24. For information about Kickball teams/schedules and where you can take in a game, contact the H-F Park District at 708-957-0300.