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Kickball Fever: Putting a foot into a big red ball is no longer just a game for kids 

Kickball might be an age old game but it's the coolest new game around town.

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"For it's one, two foul balls and you're out at the old ball game." Or so the traditional seventh-inning stretch baseball song might be adapted to fit the rules of kickball, a sport with schoolyard origins that for the past three years has been played in a Bend Parks and Recreation adult summer league.

Take the June 30 league game between the Bras and Bros and Tiger Blood (sporting an image of Charlie Sheen on their team tees) 11-person squad (that's right, 11 players is the rule and four of them have to be women) at Big Sky Park. It was a game of contrasts.

The Bras and Bros proved a loosely knit group of newcomers and locals ranging in age from 20-somethings to AARP cardholders. No matter their age, all were recruited to join the team by the husband and wife team of Connie Austin and Roger Rudolf. It was unknown as to how the Tiger Blood team was put together, but it consisted of 30-somethings, was well organized, which made sense, they were, after all, the reigning 2010 league champs.

The Bras and Bros wore running and hiking shoes; the Tiger Blood team sported cleated soccer shoes. They were fast; the Bras and Bros were slow.

Winds howled across the field and with each gust the score seemed to rise. By the end of the second inning (you play six innings or 55 minutes), the score was Tiger Blood 15, Bras and Bros 1. Tiger Blood then started off the third inning by loading the bases with nobody out. The slaughter was on. So, why take these lumps and why get them via kickball?

"I believe we all have an eight year old inside us who fondly remembers kickball," said Austin, 43, who honed her skills as a kickball player on the fields of Bend's Kingston and Kenwood schools.

"There's something magical about that red ball. You want to kick the hell out it," she said.

Other players coming in for accolades in the Bras and Bros first game were local PR maven Justin Yax holding down the hot corner at third base and financial whiz Bill Valentine roaming the outfield with élan. Their glimmers of stellar play raised hopes for a better showing in game two on July 2. This time the competition was the Cascade All Stars, a team that looked much like the Bras and Bros in terms of average age, ability and sense of humor and purpose (it's all for fun).

Things took on an ominous note, however, when Bill Valentine pulled a flexor muscle and had to sit the game out. He joined Frank Groundwater who was injured in game one, on the bench.

The game must go on and the All Stars scored first and after two consecutive three-up-three-down innings, the Bras and Bros got things going. But in the bottom half of the fourth, the All Stars came alive and put the hammer down. Final score: Cascade All Stars 20, Bras and Bros 1.

The day after the game, Groundwater emailed the following to team members: "This morning I filed a class-action lawsuit against our team's kicking instructor for negligence, fraud and torturous interference with sexual and business relationships, for his 'Lead with Your Knee' workshop that left more than half the team with serious quad pulls."

Injuries aside, hope springs eternal. Looking forward to the July 12 game with Balls Deep (double entendre? Just a little bit.) Bras and Bros manager Austin suggested that Bras and Bros team members dress in '80s fashions to "distract the other team."

The distraction worked for the first two innings as the Bras and Bros scored in both while Balls Deep (resplendent in green tees) scored as well. Then the game settled down into a low scoring (by Bras and Bros standards) affair. Final score: Balls Deep 12. Bras and Bros 4 with both teams glad the game was over and the drinking at local brewpubs could begin in earnest.

Swilling brews may take some of the sting out of what is looking like a long season ahead for the Bras and Bros whose only claim to fame to date in this year's kickball league is their name.


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