Kickball tournament helps me feel part of the community

Published 7:53 pm Thursday, July 19, 2018

Recently, a flyer for an upcoming event called Love Day came across my desk. Put together by Aurora-native Kennedy Reddick Jr. and his organization For the Grateful, Love Day will be held at S.W. Snowden Elementary School and will supply students, teens and young adults in the community with school supplies, as well as provide professional health care education on oral hygiene and both medical and mental health.

Along with the philanthropic aspect of the event, Love Day will also have a kickball tournament as part of the festivities. That last tidbit brought back fond memories of the event I had the most fun covering in my short time so far at the Washington Daily News: the Bath Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization Kick-Jam kickball tournament.

Covering that event, which was a fundraiser for playground improvements at the school, was particularly fun for two reasons. The first being I actually was able to participate and play in a game. The second, and also biggest, reason was the fact I really felt accepted and part of the community.

It all began when I was interviewing Bubs Carson, who was playing in the tournament. After I was finished asking my questions, he turned the tables and started interviewing me to find out my back-story and my career goals. His interest in who I was and where I wanted to go in life really made me feel welcomed, not that I felt unwelcomed beforehand.

Then, as Carson and I were chatting, he was approached to substitute for an injured player on another team. Carson replied, “Can my friend play too?” And next thing I knew I was trotting out to left field in jeans.

As silly as it may sound, I was actually a little nervous as I took my place in the field. I figured it might damage my credibility as a sports writer if I made a fool of myself or appeared unathletic. Fortunately for my career, I didn’t do anything that’d get me on a blooper reel.

Playing on a team with BES Principal Spencer Pake and members of the school’s faculty, I felt instantly welcomed as we were cracking jokes almost immediately. Then as I stepped up to the plate to kick for the first time, I faced off against a student-athlete I had already covered in my time at the paper. Northside golfer Brennan Baldwin, perhaps not satisfied with my coverage of his team, engaged in some friendly banter, boasting he was about to strike out “the newspaper guy.”

That was a mistake on Baldwin’s part. Despite the smile on my face from the good-natured trash talk, the competitive fire within ignited. Determined to prove a kid nearly half my age wrong, I managed to kick the ball far enough to reach first safely. Then the unexpected happened.

All of a sudden, I had support on the sidelines at an event that hundreds attended and who I thought were all strangers to me, as I to them. Several Northside softball players, who I had just recently finished covering as they made a run to the fourth round of the state playoffs, cheered and yelled support as I scampered to first, second and third, before being called out at home.

Our team ended up losing by nearly a double-digit margin. In most instances, that would irritate me, to say the least, but that wasn’t the case that day. I had too much of a blast to care. Being allowed to participate in the event I was covering and getting along so well and so easily with everyone made it a memory to cherish. I truly felt welcomed and part of the community.