I drive by the Huntersville Athletic Park daily. During the day I see a few fitness enthusiasts running or walking the track, an occasional weekly boot camp class and plenty of toddlers and preschoolers enjoying the playground.
After-school recreation teams have practice and games in the afternoon. The park is always busy.
I have not been to the park after the sun has gone down, but anyone who drives by can see it is a frenetic hub of comings and goings.
Last Wednesday I ventured into the park on a cool, moonlit night. Friends had invited me to watch a game. When I arrived, I saw the park had become minivan central. The sound of multiple baseball cleats on asphalt mixed with the ping of carbon composite bats filled the park. Baseball players of all ages had invaded the park with their families.
Amid the baseball clamor was one field where nary a child was seen. Stadium lights glared over the grassy field where teams with matching T-shirts huddled.
All players had the same shirt, but what distinguished them by team were the colors. As the yellow and orange teams left the field, the red team began to warm up. The green team circled up for a meeting.
The players seemed excited to be at the park and eager to play. Referees checked rosters, then blew the whistle. Players took the field.
A closer look, however, revealed these players were of various ages. They all definitely were older than 21, and many might have been twice that age.
I had to smile, because when the first pitch was rolled, the sound of that rubber ball being kicked took me back to my elementary school days, when I used to play this sport.
The adult co-ed kickball league was in full swing.
The green team's pitcher rolled a strike and the sidelines erupted in cheers. The pitcher rolled again, and the red team's player took a run up to the plate and softly tapped the ball. The green team stood stunned as the ball spun just in front of home plate. The kicker ran safely to first base.
As the game continued, it became clear red was there to win. The players ran the bases in a blur of red and stomped on home plate, racking up runs.
Maybe it was that they were a team of younger players. Maybe it was that their female players were equal in skill and speed to the men. Maybe it was that this team was leading the league.
Whatever the reason, the green team was strong in unity, encouragement and enthusiasm. It was made up mostly of co-workers and their spouses. With a few non-co-workers mixed in, the green team lost but ended the game with high fives and smiles. Despite the loss, they all went out for a team celebration.
For this column I've changed the colors of the teams to protect the innocent.
But kickball looked like so much fun that I am thinking about joining the league next season.