Friends and coworkers come together on the Commons for adult kickball.
When Joe Miller stepped onto the Statehouse lawn for his first game of kickball, he was an intern surrounded by coworkers at Delta Energy. Ten years – and four championship wins – later, Miller is still playing kickball, alongside many teammates from the original team, despite the fact that he now works for a different company.
“Now, it's just a big group of friends,” Miller says.
Miller has been playing in the Downtown Columbus adult kickball league since 2008. He’s the pitcher for his team, named “The Walrus” after the Downtown Columbus restaurant that has sponsored the team since it opened in 2015.
Every summer, dozens of teams compete on the Columbus Commons in the league, which is organized by the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation and Capital South. The league, originally founded in 2004 by the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, used to play games on the Statehouse lawn. When the Columbus Commons opened in 2011, the league moved to the new fields.
Games are intentionally scheduled when other events are happening on the Commons, adding to the “vibrant” Columbus community, says Nicholas Stefanik, event manager for CDDC and Capital South.
“You're not playing kickball on a baseball diamond in the middle of a sports complex,” he says. “You're playing in a lawn surrounded by skyscrapers and hundreds of other people either playing kickball with you or doing yoga, walking to their cars, grabbing dinner at Tortilla's; it's just a different atmosphere, a different environment.”
Why kickball? The rules are simple, it doesn’t require much equipment, and anyone, regardless of athleticism, can play, Stefanik says. “It has that nostalgic factor, and everyone just loves it,” he says. “I don't think anyone hates kickball.”
Melissa Fast, marketing director for Capital Crossroads SID, says the kickball league adds another facet to the Columbus scene. “People maybe only thought of it as a work environment, but, no, it can be … a live, work, play environment,” she says.
The league offers two sessions; the first just ended with the championship game on June 27, and Miller and The Walrus took home the championship title. Miller’s team will play again in the second session, which kicked off on July 10, with the team name “Pecan Penny’s,” after a restaurant that opened recently under the same owners as The Walrus. The second session runs until late August, and games are played every Tuesday and Wednesday night, starting at 5:45 p.m.
The Walrus isn’t the only team that has been around the league for the long haul. Miller says three other teams have been playing as long as his has, and a couple others have been playing almost as long. And as with most sports, it wouldn’t be fun without an age-old rivalry. “There's definitely games that get kind of intense,” Miller says. “I don't care if you're playing cards or anything. People want to win, so the competitive natures are going to come out.”
But Miller says other teams simply play to come together and “have a good time.” For Miller, the competitive games are fun, but it’s the social aspect that keeps him coming back.
“Getting together for a happy hour or just getting together, you can do that anytime,” Miller says. “Kickball is a limited time during the summer. It's just how we've communicated to each other, 'Hey, this is something that's important, and it's a fun event to go to, and we want to keep going, and we enjoy it.'”
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