NEWINGTON — Lindsay Reiff charges home plate and kicks the red ball with a pop, running as fast as she can to first base while her teammates cheer her on under the lights of Churchill Park: "Go, go go!"
With the base just a few steps away, the first baseman catches the ball. "Out!"
But it's all in good fun. Reiff, an Iowa transplant now living in Plainville, is part of the World Adult Kickball Association, a social sports league with teams sprinkled across Connecticut.
"I joined the league because I was relatively new to the area and I wanted to meet people, and it's been a great experience. I played in the downtown league and this league here in Newington."
In their uniform T-shirts, green and blue faced off in a six-inning kickball battle of the undefeated teams as the 2013 fall season came to a close, young adults from the area trading their dress shoes for sneakers at this post-work workout. Teams can be 18 to 26 people with at least eight men and eight women per team. And there's no practice, just play.
WAKA offers spring, summer and fall leagues, with different towns and cities represented in different seasons. For the spring season that kicks off in April, players can find leagues in Naugatuck, New Haven and three in Hartford. Each league has its own name. For example, Hartford offers the Star, Thunder and Chill leagues. Within those leagues, teams can choose their own names, as punny as they would like, like last year's Fall Star League champions, Alexander Graham Balls.
WAKA is a national program that started in 1998 and is now in 37 states, coming to Connecticut in 2008. With leagues in Hartford, Newington, New Haven and Naugatuck, senior community coordinator Chad Martin says the Connecticut WAKA has gone from 850 active players to more than 2,000 in just the last year.
"One of the knocks of Hartford is that it's between Boston and New York, young people don't have a lot to do. This is a great way to meet young people, be active and do something fun after work," he says.
Though WAKA is a social league and is more about having a good time and meeting people, Martin says that just like any other sport, it can get competitive. Each game is recorded, each season has playoffs and the winning team takes home a trophy. Upon completion of the season, teams face off in a single elimination playoff tournament, competing to receive an invitation to play in WAKA's National Founders Cup Tournament in Las Vegas on Columbus Day weekend.
Each league is eight weeks long with one 50-minute game per week, full of the classic kickball you played as a kid: Someone rolls the ball, you kick it and run the bases like in baseball. In WAKA games, bunting is very popular.
One week before the season starts, drop into a pickup game in the area to learn more about how the league plays, get some kicks in before the official season and also meet and greet fellow players. (Go to kickball.com/ct for locations.)
And the league plays just as hard off the field as on it.
A WAKA registration includes access to the league's bar crawls, parties and weekly post-game sessions with deals and specials at sponsoring local bars. The league is also involved in charity events: WAKA recently hosted a polar plunge to raise money for My Sandy Hook Fund that drew 100 people to Lake Compounce for the cause.
"After the games we all go to our sponsored bar and we all hang out so it's really like a big party after our games too," Martin said.
Spring sponsors include The Russian Lady, The Tavern Downtown and Sidewalk Cafe in Hartford, Dee Man's Bar in Naugatuck and Anna Liffey's in New Haven.
Not a fan of kickball? The association also offers dodgeball and flag football here in Connecticut (see accompanying story). All sports are co-ed.
Registration for the spring kickball season is open until early April at kickball.com/ct. Everyone 21-plus is eligible, and each team has 18 to 26 people with at least eight men and eight women. Interested athletes can register as an individuals, small groups or full teams. Cost is $67 per person.Copyright © 2015, CT Now