The fall 2020 kickball season has come to an end for our family.

L’s team capped their season Wednesday with a run-rule win against the nearest parish. L had a grand slam, a three-run triple, and a single to close out the season.

She didn’t kick quite as well this year as in the past. I’m not sure if that’s because she hasn’t played soccer in a year, or just from her body changing – she’s stretched out more over the past few months – and her form changing along with it. She’s becoming more like C, though, and kicking line drives then racing around the bases. There are a couple girls that are probably faster than her in a straight line. But no one runs the bases like she does. Her grand slam was legit, though, a towering ball that an outfielder couldn’t contain and rolled all the way to the school building.

C’s team had their final game Thursday. It was against a school we’ve had issues with for years. We beat them like a drum back in fifth grade. But something happened between that game and sixth grade. Our girls all seemed to plateau while the St J’s girls all got bigger, recruited some friends, and figured the game out. Not only had they beaten us something like five-straight, including earlier this season, but some bad blood had developed between us and their coaches. Their coach is super competitive, as are we, but always acts like she doesn’t know the rules. She’s been coaching long enough where she damn well should know them. Our head coach is our school rules expert, and it drives her nuts when this coach pretends she doesn’t know what is going on.

And weird things tend to happen in these games. Once it started sprinkling during the game, then raining a little harder. The umpire refused to stop the game and a couple of our parents yanked their kids off the field in the middle of an inning. Another time C felt like she was going to throw up and had to exit in the middle of the game, likely costing us that game. Our head coaches also argued about when to reschedule another game that was rained out, and a third game that was halted because of darkness three innings in. And we ALWAYS seem to get some crazy umpire when we play them. In our first meeting this year we got a total dick who refused to call St. J girls out for crossing the kicking line because he said it was too hard for him to see it.[1] Then he yelled at our head coach, telling her to “Come out here and see what I can see!” when she attempted to protest.

In short, when we play St. J it always ends up being some super stressful night that isn’t fun at all. Plus we lose.

When we rolled up to the field Thursday my stomach did a flip. We had the umpire from M’s infamous “Longest Game Ever” three years ago. This was the umpire that made two absolutely horrific, and wrong according to the rules, calls that nearly cost us the game. It was the maddest I’ve ever been during a game and the only time I’ve decided to chat with an umpire following a game.

L’s team had her earlier this year and she missed a couple calls against us in a close game.

Just freaking great.

We gave up eight runs in the first inning. Not a great start. We got a few back in our half, played better D, and slowly chipped away. In the third inning the umpire made a “wrong by the rules” call. In kickball a runner at first is in play if she turns back inside fair territory to get back to first. Doesn’t matter if their intent is to go back to first. A St. J girl did that, our girl playing first tagged her out, but the umpire refused to rule her out. Our head coach went out to discuss, but the umpire would not change her call. Between innings they had a chat and the umpire admitted she was wrong. Fortunately we got that girl out at second so it didn’t alter the score.

But my blood pressure was rising.

We continued to play well on defense and took a three-run lead into the seventh.

We gave up five and St. J had the bases loaded with two outs when their kicker stepped over the kicking line when she made contact. The head coach and I started yelling, “SHE’S OUT!” The umpire gave us a look, nodded, waited until the girl passed first, then called her out. Redemption!

Now we needed two runs to tie, three to win, with the heart of our order coming up. Our best kicker was first. She’s a lefty and kicked the longest ball I’ve ever seen on our field. She easily scampered home for the first run. We got a runner on, made an out, then had another big kicker come up with a runner on second. She blasted one, bringing home the tying run and ended up on second. We had a good, if inconsistent kicker up next. She sent a low liner toward the shortstop. It skipped, got by her, and bounded into the outfield. I coach third and was screaming at our runner, “COME ON, COME ON, GO! GO! GO!” windmilling my arm and sending her home. She scored easily, our girls all lost their shit, and they ended their careers with a very sweet win.

Whew. I literally smacked our head coach in the shoulder when we got to our bench. “HOW ABOUT THAT!?!?” I yelled at her. The girls hugged, took pictures, thanked their classmates that had come to support them, and we headed to Dairy Queen for an ice cream celebration. And then the St. J’s team all showed up. That was a liiiiiiittle bit awkward. With Covid restrictions in mind, we claimed one side of the patio, they stuck to the other, and the peace was kept.

C got on three times and scored a couple runs. She had one play where she was able to open up and fly around the bases, scoring from first. One of the St. J’s players said, “Wow!” as C passed her at full speed.

That is what I’m always going to remember and miss about C. Once she figured the game out, she was the best player in her grade for about three years. In sixth grade she was one of the very best players in the entire school, both because of her kicking and speed and the way she could basically play the entire infield.

She’s lost some of that over the past year. Her kicking isn’t as consistent, but she still occasionally really got into one. Her fielding took a huge step back. I think all those blasts up front, and resulting injuries, wore her down.[2] But the girl could still fly when she got on base.

M and C had very different kickball careers. M was always on great teams, but was often the weakest player on the team. C was on a bunch of mediocre to bad teams, but usually was the most complete player on the team.

I have two favorite memories of C’s kickball years.

The first was in fifth grade. I don’t remember the details of the game. I just know she kicked a couple home runs and made a ton of plays in the field. That night a friend of ours with a daughter on the team sent me a screenshot of the text her son, who is in M’s grade, sent her after the game. He said that his sister made a couple nice plays and that C “Had the greatest kickball performance I’ve ever seen.” I show that to C every year when it pops up in my Timehop memories.

Second was a moment in sixth grade. I was keeping score and the mom/grandma keeping score for the other team kept bragging about her daughter/granddaughter and how fast she was. “Yeah, you’re not going to throw her out,” when we tried to throw her out at first. She told me how the girl was the fastest on the St. C cross country team. I nodded and smiled, not saying a word about C’s speed, and knowing C had beaten her at every XC meet that season.

Fairly early in the game this girl was on first and the ball got away from our pitcher, rolling behind home plate. The runner saw this and took off, getting to second easily and turning towards third. C had taken off after the ball immediately, picked it up a good 10 feet behind home plate as the girl was rounding second, and then roared across the field to tag the girl out a step before she got to third. Giggling the entire time.

The mom/grandma literally gasped and made some semi-snotty comment about how it was a lucky play to her kid when she checked in with us as out. It was very hard for me not to say “DON’T EVER FUCKING RUN ON CB AGAIN!” I did say it to myself. Bitches.

Those moments of speed are the biggest thing I will remember about C’s career. She could be moody, get down on herself, and mentally check out. I lost track of how many games she started crying in, whether because she was getting beaten up by the ball or was frustrated with the umpire. But when that girl got a chance to run, she was so much fun to watch.

  1. There is a line in front of home plate that kickers are not supposed to cross when they kick. I know there is an official distance this line is supposed to be in front of home, but it differs on every diamond. If a girl steps over the line and kicks a fair ball, she is supposed to be out.  ↩
  2. She had her worst injury a couple weeks back. She was pitching and took an absolutely crushed ball right in the hand. It bent her hand completely backward and she immediately burst into tears and came out of the game. I was worried her wrist was broken. It turned out she just had a nasty hematoma that lasted about a week. S said the force of the ball likely burst a blood vessel in C’s arm. I’ve been trying to tell you all for years how rough real kickball is!  ↩