image of HAS employee at the kicking plate
Anthony Gillum of the Houston Airport System Aviators kickball team misses his kick during the March City of Houston Kickball Tournament. He made up for the kick and a miss with two homerun kicks later in the game. | Photo by Kiersten Mayes

 

While baseball is considered America’s national pastime, you could say that kickball is in the same ballpark. 

Think about it: It’s an off shoot of baseball and softball. It’s a team game that almost all kids first learn to play together outside. And the physical skills don’t change — just kick the ball and hope you don’t get hit by said ball before you reach base. 

Beat the Ball Kersten Mayes webIt brings back memories of a more fun and innocent time. Plus, it teaches kids about teamwork, healthy competition and good sportsmanship when playing together. 

The City of Houston wants its employees to enjoy those trips down memory lane while also building team camaraderie and getting to know other departments. And an adult kickball tournament at Cullen Park on March 9 accomplished all that. 

“We’re leading the effort in building a culture that believes in employee wellness, engagement, and departmental collaboration through competitive but friendly departmental team sports,” Human Resources Department Senior Communications Specialist Jennifer Cobb said. HR sponsors the COH Kickball Tournament and its basketball league. 

Fourteen teams took part in the tournament. The Houston Fire Department kickball team edged the Houston Airport System Aviators 4-3 for the title. 

This was the first time for many of the city employees to participate in the tournament, and they got a kick out of it. 

“I wasn’t sure what to expect since the last time I played kickball was many, many years ago in grade school,” said HAS Marketing Director Duone Byars, whose game highlight was making an incredible catch for his team against the Office of Business Opportunities. “Besides a few bumps and bruises, I enjoyed it.  It was great being able to play with team members from HAS that I don’t see every day.” 

Cobb said while the competition is between departments, teams are made up of employees from different divisions within their own department. That helps to build departmental collaboration, she said. 

“I love it. I’ve seen some creative team names, and I encourage everyone to come out and cheer on your colleagues when we do have a kickball or basketball tournament or any of the basketball league games,” Cobb said. 

And it’s free. “It’s a good way to meet folks from other departments. It’s a good way to meet folks in your own department. It’s fun,” Cobb said. “It can get competitive so if you’ve got that spirit, you might be surprised. But you don’t have to be a pro or an athlete by any means.” 

The games are fun, but things do change over time: Kids become adults, and those adults realize they’re not as fast and nimble as they were back in the day. Sure, some adults played sports in high school and college to stay active and in shape, but others did not. 

Hi Kiersten Mayes webAll of which makes the weekend tournament’s athletic showcase a complete show. 

To play adult kickball, proper training and planning helps. Of course, winging it is also a great strategy. 

Take base running for example. Many of the players admitted since they hadn’t played the game in some time, youthful instincts and hope occasionally kicked in. A great example of this happened during the game between HAS Aviators and OBO (by the way, the Aviators won the game, 7-1). Byars said it happened to him when he slid into a base. 

“My childhood instincts kicked in,” he admitted. “While my teammates loved it, I was still out. A couple days later, I’m still feeling the pain from it.” 

Byars said he created a hashtag #TooOldToSLIDE to remind himself not to do that again. 

“I’m going to try to avoid being in any situation where a slide is necessary. But I can’t guarantee that it won’t happen if adrenaline kicks in,” he said laughing. 

Jessica DelGreco, a business development coordinator for OBO, said she played catcher and left field for her high school softball team. It was those memories which prompted her to slide into home plate to score a run for her team. 

“It was not necessary, but after some persuasion from my teammates, I just decided to do it!” she said. And after the slide, she posed for photos wearing her Ohio State University sweatshirt and sand-covered black leggings. 

Yo good job man Kiersten Mayes webDelGreco admits she had some soreness from sliding into home plate, but added she doesn’t regret her decision. “Nope! It was fun, so it was worth it!” she laughed. 

And while the games were meant to be lighthearted and fun, a little competitiveness does inevitably creep in. 

HAS Division Manager and Aviators Captain Mary Pardo said their games were lighthearted, except when the competitiveness grew heightened in a few instances. Still, she said her team enjoyed every minute of the tournament, calling it a great experience. 

“The tournament is the best opportunity to get to know other city department employees outside of Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Pardo said. 

The tournament also helped create new memories for its participants. 

“My most memorable moment was when I kicked two home runs,” Anthony Gillum, a HAS terminal management customer service supervisor said. “Of course, I wasn’t expecting the ball to travel that far with the weather; however, I placed it in the right spot.” 

Of course, Gillum did have another memorable moment against the OBO kickball team when he attempted a kick at home plate and missed the ball. 

“That miss doesn’t count,” he laughed. 

Cobb said kickball received the second highest number of votes after basketball in terms of popularity, so there’s definitely some kind of draw to it. 

“I’m aware of several local teams and leagues. There’re also some national kickball events, so there definitely is a fan base for it,” she said. 

The next kickball tournament is scheduled for Nov. 2 at Herman Brown Park. Cobb said teams that competed in March are already making plans to compete in that tournament as well. 

 Still, she said kickball won’t replace baseball as America’s favorite national pastime. 

“Absolutely not,” Cobb laughed. “It is a great alternate option though. Again, there is a fan base for it.” 

View images from the City of Houston kickball tournament.

 

The pitch Kiersten Mayes web