Anyone want to start thinking about fields for the coming season?  Have you already been pondering places to play?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Any opinions on the position we should take regarding grass fields and dirt fields?  Arguments for both are more complex than they may casually appear.

It’s important to note that the KVKL was built on the use of grass fields.  These grassies helped us to establish our identity and were the conduits of KVKL culture. Originally, we would gather at parks around a certain time and…..just……..kball.  No refs, little order, far fewer arguments, and an afternoon/evening of free entertainment.  Ah, those were the days.  As we grew, so did our use of fields.  We finally reached a zenith a few years ago where grassies were no longer numerous nor ample enough to house our league.  We then took that fabled leap to Hobbs.  So began our use of dirt fields.  These dirt fields were alluring: the well-manicured outfields, quicker-play infields, and oh-so seductive straight lines.  It’s like we were reborn in a world of order from the mythical chaos of grassies.  Mind you, everything that is quirky about the grassies makes each original and fun.  Each field combines a different feel and playability factor (I am now imagining an EA Sports kball video game where you get to choose your favorite grass/dirt field).   This decision was not easy for Kelly.  He feared, as he often did, that this would signal the END OF TIMES.  A bit dramatic but well-intentioned.  The league lived on and we grew to (current capacity) 30 teams.  We fully expect to reach that capacity again this year.

Grassies– In 2009, our regular grassy rotation was noticeably less than in recent years: Edgewood, Water Tower Park, and Woodlawn.  We collectively agreed to not use South Park because of wear and tear.  That has produced mixed results.  Considering the most recent condition of the park, there remains no guarantee that we’ll be able to use South Park in 2010.  In past seasons, we’ve tried grass fields at Dad Perry Park, Hillcrest, Cordley, along with other Edgewood variations.  Some of these locations provided us excellent fields, often for more than one season.  Some became hazardous for us while others we simply outgrew.  We do have some issues among our current batch of grassies.  Rutting along the pitching lane and wear around base areas are the most common signs of fatigue.  These can be repaired.  Last season, the KVKL attempted repairs at Edgewood and WTP with the aid of Open Sky Landscaping (Thanks again Sol!).  For various reasons, these repairs did not hold.  We hope to attempt further repairs at those same fields.  Edgewood is beloved but difficult to line.  Woodlawn is not as well liked, but arguably the grassy in the best condition.  WTP, a field adored by many for practices and games alike, has some obvious flaws.

Pros: Playability, location to downtown, natural obstacles, family friendly, tradition, softer surface, basically free.

Cons: Difficult to line, natural wear, no lights, most playoff games are played on dirt, not guaranteed, playing on school property is always a dicey proposition for us, often only one field per location, quantity of good fields.

Dirt– When we first began using the dirt fields, many were not happy.  Some were offended by the perceived ‘commercialization’ of their favorite Sunday activity. Why would we consider such a shift?  The answers are quite simple: practicality, functionality, flexibility and consistency.  People have adapted and learned to enjoy their time on dirt fields.  We have used dirt fields at Douglas County Fairgrounds (3), Broken Arrow, LHS, Hobbs, Woody Park*, and Lyons (2). DCF offers fields in various conditions, some with home-run fences.  LHS was a poor field for the KVKL and is now gone.  Broken Arrow has fans and detractors. Woody Park was an unsatisfactory experiment for the KVKL (now looks like LMH wants to make it into a parking lot).  Hobbs and Lyons have been our most reliable dirt fields and they are situated well in proximity to downtown.

Pros: Mostly uniform, cleaner and more visible lines, more field options, playability, some are located close to downtown, family friendly, guaranteed reservations, lights, often more than one field per location.

Cons: Some are further from downtown, harder surface, gives a perceived advantage to ‘jocks’ and considered by some not SOTL, costs $.

Proximity to downtown has always been a driving factor in field designation.  However, I would argue that the constitution of the league has changed.  People are driving from beyond Lawrence to participate in KVKL games.  Participants live throughout Lawrence and not just in the downtown area.  And, while it was originally the case, the current KVKL is much more than a downtown kickball league.  Insistence that we remain focused on a downtown demographic is dated and facile.  If you are a downtown business owner (read – BAR owner), not too worry.  I doubt that our willingness to gather downtown after games will change in the near future.

There’s more, but let’s hear what you have to say.  Your feedback is most welcome.  Thanks!

*Please note, I put Woody Park under the dirt category.  It’s really more of a hybrid field.