It seems that more people are checking out this blog than I had originally thought, so I figured I’d add another KVKL history lesson for those that frequent Sunday(s) in the Park. I think some really fun discussions are happening this season, and it’s great to hear about games and teams from all around the league. But now I sit back in my rocking chair and reminisce about the days of old…
As we touched on in the last edition, Scott Edwards moved to KC in the summer of 2004, and passed the league over to Kelly Corcoran. Kelly was already very active in the league and had been assisting Scott over the last couple seasons, so it was a fairly smooth transition. Before the start of the 2005 season, Kelly made a decision that changed KVKL, and was really the beginning of the game as we know it now.
The league had always been co-ed, but there had never been any sort of rule about it. As Deron mentioned after the last post, only one female had played in the ’04 Championship Game. Kelly declared that every team must have at least 3 male players, and at least 3 female players on the field at all times. For some teams this changed nothing, but other teams began scrambling around to find some ladies to play on their team. This became known as the “girl rule,” and remains the single most important rule in the league.
Defensive strategy was a hot topic, and when scouting or gossiping about teams, people would always ask “where do they play their girls.” Every team was lining up differently, but the most popular defense was the “fertile crescent.” I credit Andy Hom with naming this defense, but I could be wrong. This meant a female second baseman, shortstop and rover (shallow outfield behind 2nd base). The importance of good female players was obvious, and all the top teams had girls that were athletic and experienced.
2005 was the year I began to notice better throwing across the board. Before, it seemed like we were heaving a watermelon, but now the ball whipped around the infield. 3rd basemen and catchers were learning how to stop the bunt, and kicks to the deep outfield were no longer guaranteed home runs. The game seemed more fluid than it had been the past few seasons. This was a combination of teams finding better players, and returning players improving.
The playoffs that season were phenomenal. Love Garden, Milton’s, Papa Keno’s, Bottleneck and Rudy’s were among the teams that seemed like contenders. A crazy bunch of short-short wearing hipsters from Jensen’s had other plans, though. They had a late season surge led by Kyle Batten, or Key-lo, or Priest Fontaine, or DJ Hasselhoff, or whichever of his nicknames you want to call him. His performance that postseason is still some of the best kickball I’ve ever seen played, with diving catches, throws from centerfield to home, monster kicking and ballsy base-running. He also got a lot of help from his spirited teammates, and they upset Milton’s, then Love Garden to take the 2005 Championship.
2006 saw many of the same teams back, and the most competitive teams looked about the same. Love Garden was now called Billy Construction, but they had a very similar group. Milton’s was now called Murda Inc, and they hadn’t changed much either. Papa Keno’s was stacked as always. Jensen’s was looking pretty sharp, and seemed confident that they could defend their crown.
The rain was not kind to the KVKL that summer, with at least a couple of weeks called because of it. One week was during the playoffs, with the quarterfinals and semifinals scheduled for the same day, which is how it had been done in years past. In order to wrap up the season, Kelly decided to finish the whole thing in one Sunday. This led to another Corcoran decision that forever changed our league.
Since we were playing a triple-header, there wasn’t going to be enough daylight to get all the games in. Kelly arranged for the Championship Game to be played at Hobbs Park. This meant two things that KVKL had never seen before: dirt and lights. Some were skeptical about holding the most important game of the season on a new style of field, but we were getting into September, and the season had to end.
Murda Inc had defeated Rudy’s in the quarterfinals and headed to Water Tower Park to play Papa Keno’s. When they arrived, they discovered that they were not playing Keno’s, but instead were going to play Wildman Vintage, who had pulled off a major upset. That is still probably the biggest postseason upset we’ve ever had. Wildman ran out of gas, though, and Murda advanced to the Championship game to face Billy Construction.
What a game! A chilly night under the lights at Hobbs felt like we were watching a High School football game. These teams were obviously very evenly matched, with similar styles of “small ball” offense. The players were all dead-tired, but man did they make some great plays. There were several diving catches and clutch kicks, and both teams were running the bases like crazy. I remember one play where Robert from Murda dove for a line drive, but rather than try to catch it, he bumped it up with his fist and their shortstop caught it. Awesome! Nine innings weren’t enough to settle this one, and a very fired up crowd got to see a spectacular 10-inning showdown. Murda Inc pulled it out, and were the 2006 Champions.
The takeaway from this experience was that Hobbs is a great place to get the league together and watch a ballgame. Everyone hoped that, at the very least, the Championship would be there each year. Kelly stepped down as Commissioner after the season, appointing a seven member Board to share the duties of running the league. This take us into the Modern Era: 2007-present…