From Marcus Reynolds:
I’m covering 9 teams (25% of the league) who have 1st year KVKL players this year. I tried to cover how a player got recruited, what their background might be, and how they are doing in the league so far.
Grant has recruited five rookies. Five first year KVKL players, and yet his team not only made the jump into the 1s, but they have multiple wins in the 1s as well. That’s pretty impressive. He’s got Will L, Hallie, Becca, Kat, and Owen. Owen got recruited and played fall ball with the Harpies pre covid. Made the summer squad and has a great eye out in left field. Kat and Hallie both had significant others on the team. Kat is dating Brian and has been putting in the most work out of anyone during practices to make herself better. Hallie is dating the veteran Brittany, and was asked to just play for 3 games so she would be playoff eligible in case Grant needed an emergency sub. But once everyone saw Hallie play, she became a permanent fixture in the lineup. Grant met Becca during a random kickball tournament. They played on the same team and after they lost in the ‘ship, he went up and asked if she’d want to play in a actual kickball league. I had the pleasure of playing with her and Grant in a KC league last summer. It has been great seeing her shine in the KVKL. She has quite the leg. The biggest up and coming star might be Will L. He played D1 soccer for Arkansas. Insanely athletic and has been killing it at the catcher position. The cool thing about how Will L got recruited to the Harpies, is that his mother Elizabeth Laufer was an OG Harpie. That makes him the 4th player to have had a parent that played or plays for the team. You have Grant and Max who of course are the sons of the Commissioner Staci. Then you have 2nd year KVKL player Will Davis, who had BOTH of his parents (Carie and Josh) who used to play for the Harpies. Josh being the captain of the Harpies when Grant first entered the league. Shout out to Staci for being the last OG Harpie.
A new team name comes with a new captain. And a new captain, comes with new players. My boi Kenny K took over for Seth and Brad, and he changed the former name from Rats to Honey Badgers and brought on Kory, Deon, and Jessica. Kory, aka the Red Rocket, was recruited by the co captain Aaron Brooks. Both of them knew each other in high school and Kory was a soccer star. I’ve reffed one of their games and got to watch them play when their game was broadcasted against Jazzhaus, and Red Rocket has one of the most solid line drive kicks that you can have. Seems like he’s always on base. Kenny met Deon through 2nd year player Lucas, and right away Kenny knew he’d be a good fit. Lucas and Deon play basketball professionally for the KC Sizzlers, so they are obviously athletically gifted. While he might not be the strongest kicker yet, he makes catches in right field look easy with how he can track down a ball. I swear I saw him playing with one glove, is that right? Lucas brought on Jessica because he knew her from high school. Jess has a Lacrosse background, which I feel is pretty unique to the league. They all really love playing. Kenny has a 2nd year player named Bryce who is a fantastic hype man. And it’s been awesome seeing the rookies feed off his energy during games.
Even veteran teams need to replenish their ranks from time to time. LG has three rookies this year, Mike Z, Skylar, and Kirby. My man Mike Z. He moved to KC from Albuquerque, NM. He came with tons of kickball experience from down in New Mexico, specifically kickball 365 experience. Pete Loughead suggested the league to Mike, and after one fb post asking to join a team and with a seal of approval from Pete, Mike Z ended up with Rob Z. Maybe a couple weeks later, Mike was added to my K365 Bad Astra group chat, and it has been wonderful getting to play alongside with him. He plays catcher and lays down perfect bunts. LG is run by committee, so they have multiple captains, but Rob Z is their KVKL rep for the team. This year Tyler W got promoted to Captain, and he knew he had to have his buddies Skylar and Kirby on the team. Skylar has a basketball background. I saw him starting at 3rd base during their Game of the Week against JDE and I said ‘uhhhhhh wut?’ Spencer Scott was one of the top 3rd basemen in the league and has a cannon for an arm, why would you move him to pitcher? All my questions were answered after I saw Skylar snag ball after ball out of the air. Absolutely phenomenal hands. The crazy thing is that Rob Z went up to Skylar MINUTES before that game, and told him he wanted him to play 3rd. For it being your 1st year, 1st game under the lights in front of a crowd, 1st time playing 3rd base, and you didn’t crumble under all that pressure? Very impressive man, well done. Tyler’s other buddy is Kirby. Kirby has a baseball AND a competitive disc golfer background. He played catcher in college, so he was always gunning people down who tried to steal a base. LG really likes Spencer at pitcher, so when Skylar was hung over from his wedding (congrats), Kirby got the call to fill in at 3rd base. He helped hold Red Lyon to 6 and apparently kicked a homerun last week so LG has picked up a trio of very good rookie players.
Speaking of very good rookie players, time to cover the best ones. Go ahead and call me biased, I’m just spitting facts. Simon brought on four rookies, Jared, Cedric, Ricky, and Domo. Jared knows a thing or two about kickball championships. He’s won 8 of them on Wednesday nights in KC. He also won a ‘ship in a KC league on Sundays, where he was the MVP of the whole league. It wasn’t MVP of the championship game, it was MVP for the whole season. There were like 25 teams in that league! Beast. Jared starts in center field and is the lead off for Post Haus. He’s only played 2 games all season due to injury, but he’s healthy now, and looking to do whatever to help Post win. We have Cedric who moved to the KC area from Louisiana. Cedric has tonssss of kickball experience from playing in Louisiana. Simon recruited him for K365 and then for KVKL. Cedric said that there’s not much he’s seen in kickball that matches a GOTW and the electric atmosphere. He really digs the vibe, camaraderie, and structure of the KVKL. What he likes the most about the KVKL is what they do outside of kickball for the community. Compared to the other leagues he’s played in, the rules, pitching, and field positioning are different. He’s also had to adjust to the small ball and how to field/kick/bunt it. Ced has had to ease into the lineup mainly because he’s been nurturing what was basically a fractured ankle. But as his ankle has got better, he has gotten better. He should be 100% by tourney time. Next up is Ricky. He played in the same KC league as Jared and Domo. Has a volleyball background, so he knew Richard. Simon reached out to him because we were down 4 guys on Memorial Day weekend. He played so well, that he earned a permanent spot on the team. The dude is like 6’4, but he has a wing span of someone who is 7ft tall. He can play outfield or 1st base. Last up is Domo, he’s Jared’s best friend. He came along with Ricky during week 2 to not only help save us, but help conquer. Domo is no stranger to playing 1st base, seeing as how he played there on all of the same championship runs that Jared had. But for never playing with the small ball KVKL uses and having to field bullets thrown from Josh, Colin Flanders, and Sarah Riley all game long, he did amazing. His pregame and during game music playlists are 2nd to none. DJ Dom should be his name. I’m excited to see how they all perform under the lights in week 10.
Arguably no other team roster was affected more than Jazzhaus by the cancellation of the 2020 season. They were going to have all of their main players coming back, when normally they have one and done players. That team was coming off a spectacular 2019 season of making the 1s and then getting dubs there as well. But then Covid came, and a year off meant that most of their young players were moving on. If anyone could refill a depleted roster with solid young talent, it would be none other than the best recruiter in the league, the owner and team manager of The Jazzhaus, Rick McNeely. Rick has a total of 12 brand new players this year. He didn’t recruit all of them by himself, he had help from Maleena H, who happens to be a rookie as well. Maleena is on a academic scholarship at West Virginia, but in the summer she works at The Jazzhaus. She is responsible for introducing four of the other rookies (Reece/Harrison/Max/Ben) to Rick. Reece D comes from a basketball background. He’s 6’2, plays catcher, and is getting comparisons to Isaac Combs as to the way he shuts down the bunt. Harrison M is the 2nd player I’m covering who is coming from a Lacrosse background. Maybe captains need to scope out lacrosse games for new talent. Maleena recruited Max A and Ben C who both have a baseball background. They both play outfield and are just 18. Max turned down a baseball scholarship as a pitcher because he wanted to go to KU, so I’m sure he has an arm. After those four, you have a player named Cam N, who is good friends with Reece. He got injured while over running a base, so hopefully he’ll be good for the tourney because they need him as an outfielder. Rick always has athletes that are on scholarship somewhere for some sport. He has Darian L and Michael U. Darian is a TE at Baker. He used to come to games to watch his buddy Anthony Harvey Jr., and was finally convinced to play. At 6’2 and 220, I’d assume he has power. Michael U has a sister on the team named Margaret, and his first game ever was last week against Free State. Michael is on scholarship at Hutchinson Community College as a pitcher. Rick has four other new ladies. Sydney P, Alexa L, and Dalima K all work at The Jazzhaus along with Maleena. Sydney is a 5’8 ex volleyball player who turned down a scholarship because she wanted to go to KU. Alexa is a semi professional hula hooper! Her hand-eye coordination has got to be fantastic. Dalima is a recent college grad and gifted singer. Rick hired her 5min after meeting her, and added her to the kickball squad even faster. And finally we have Chloe H, who is the girl friend of Lee Campbell. When you have a stud like Lee who wants his GF to play, you make it happen. Chloe and Lee have joined a KC league to get more reps in, and it’s paying off for Chloe.
Jazzhaus isn’t the only team with an 18 year old on the squad. After years of only being able to kick around and field kicks in pre game warmups, and then watching his father play in the actual game, Junior is finally old enough to play. He is the son of James Tolbert. Junior was able to get his first game time experience back in the fall of 2019 on Cosgrove’s fall ball team. Cosgrove has said Junior has heart, wants it more, and listens. As a rookie, being coachable is an important virtue to have, and it sure seems like Junior fits the bill. James has had to sit this season out due to a back injury, but I believe he’ll be back with the Ghosts after a year long stint playing for Thomas Joel and triple X. For now, Ben from Red Lyon and his +75yr old dad are the only other father and son combo that I know of. But once James and Junior are playing on the same team, I’d like to issue the ‘Griffey Challenge’ to them. If Junior and James can kick back to back homeruns, I’ll buy James a case of whatever alcoholic beverage he wants, and I’ll get Junior some chocolate milk/Capri Suns or maybe just a pizza. Junior isn’t the only rookie the Ghosts added. They added Tom and Megan E. Tom is a Red Lyon regular, who was recruited by Katie Keating. Great place kicker, played in the outfield until he had to move to 1st base after their 1st baseman suffered a season ending injury. Megan was recruited by Brian Schultz. He was good friends with her and knew she had played soccer. She’s been at short stop and has been killing it. A common theme with these Ghost rookies is that they have all been described as awesome human beings.
Colton. Colton. Colton. I hear his name mentioned multiple times, by multiple players, week after week on the KVKL podcast. When you’re getting that many name drops as a rookie, you know his future is going to be bright in this league. Apparently the story goes that Colton and Junior from Ghosts are homies that played on the same fall ball team. The Ghosts only had one spot open, so Cosgrove took Junior, and Maresa got to claim Colton for her KVKL team. I haven’t been able to watch Colton play yet, but all signs point to him being as good as Jimmy was while he played for Maresa. Colton is the catcher, but he can literally play any position on the field where Maresa and the team need him most. According to her, Colton’s situational awareness is why he dominates. He has the game IQ to know where the ball needs to go, with the athletic ability to execute the play. His trust in his teammates has been influential for the overall team dynamic. Besides Colton, Maresa added five other rookies. Tyler W and Nick are her most recent additions. Their first game ever was last week. Both of them have a baseball background so they were familiar with the rules overall. They were splitting time in right field, and impressed Maresa by how they naturally backed up any throw to 1st base without having to be told. Kicking the ball was new to them, but they have two more games to get the kinks out before tourney time. Corey is a new player. He had no kickball or baseball background, so understanding the rules and how to play his position took some time. He plays short stop and has one hell of an arm. He recently bought cleats which will make him faster than he already was. Drew and Tyler A were added on due to the Sponsor of Kicking Assets, Kurt Goeser of State Farm Insurance. Drew does not play with cleats, but his ball tracking skills in left field are on point. He has missed some games due to his army duties (thank you for your service), but once he gets back, he’ll take his spot near the top of the lineup because he’s always kicking line drives. Tyler A was from State Farm as well. I think I like his story the most. Recently he expressed that his knowledge of kickball and kicking in general was lacking, and to me, that takes courage. Maresa and other teammates showed up early to a game to get Tyler some practice and give him a better understanding of the art. Kicking in practice is one thing, but there is no substitution for in game situations. Maresa ended up splitting with Tyler and letting him take the majority of the at bats to make sure that he was able to apply what he had learned. Tyler said that game made all the difference in the world. Sometimes the captain isn’t always your best player. I’m not saying Maresa isn’t the best player on her team, she could be. But being a captain means you’re the best leader or have the most passion. And any time someone is willing to put the success of the team or teammates over their own personal needs, that’s someone I’d want to follow.
23rd st. Brewery Screamers
So I have a City league kickball team that is basically Betsy Skinner, and all of her friends from work. Just about all the ladies on the squad work with Betsy. One of them is Carly Redlich, and her husband Austin also plays on the team. My boi David Shipley walked up to the dugout on the Friday before the first KVKL game of the season and asked Simon Skinner if he knew anyone who wanted to play KVKL. Simon introduced Shipley to Austin and Carly, and that Sunday they were both Screamers. They have to be one of the greatest random couple pickups ever. Carly played softball in college and Austin is just an all around athlete. I got to watch them play KTC, and they were the main reason why the score wasn’t 35-0. They were both getting on base frequently and defensively were absolute studs. I’m sure that Shipley knows Austin and Carly are on possible poach alert. Another rookie on the Screamers is Nick. He also works with Carly and Betsy. He came to watch a game, and Erin Garger asked him if he wanted to play. He then drove back home to get tennis shoes, and entered the game. Nick has been playing all over the field, but his most important quality is that he is reliable, since he has shown up for every game since joining. Albert is the 4th rookie for Screamers. He is the friend of Garett’s, and plays in the outfield. Albert is the same as Nick as he can play wherever, but mostly plays in the outfield.
Brew Tang Clan
Last but not least we got my boi Baeza and his wife Sonya. They have both captained multiple teams for multiple sports, but this year is their first year captaining a KVKL team. They were in the league in 2019, but not as captains. They have a very hands on approach to things, so I just knew they would get their own team eventually. They have a new team in the league and they brought in six KVKL rookies. First up is Luke. Luke came in all the way from Australia to do his grad studies at KU. He is a phy. Ed teacher so kickball is his speciality. Baeza was the first to recruit Luke. They let him play on their softball team to see how fit he was, and apparently he has a gun for an arm. I’ve also heard that Luke has the best calf muscles in the league. Kenny St. Pierre was a member of the Baeza’s softball team and was recruited at the time because they were short people. He plays the outfield in softball and his skills there have transitioned to the kickball field, so Baeza gave him a permanent spot. Kicking is always going to be hard for players without a soccer background, but Kenny works at it each game. Farai Rusinga is a city league player that wanted to play with Brew Tang. He has a soccer background so his bunting and kicking is excellent. He is extremely fast and plays catcher. His most important quality is that he listens to whatever he is being told to do. Brittany Cheek was recruited from city league as well. She’s got that competitor mentality. Minor set back might be that she needs cleats ha. Josh H has been a long time friend of the Baeza’s. He’s a utility player that can play anywhere on the field. Josh helped to recruit Ryan G to the team. Ryan has been a baller so far playing 3rd base. David is predicting he’ll be a top 10 3rd baseman in the league for sure next year. Ryan is also fast as hell, so he’s been in the lead off spot. Being rookie captains to KVKL, getting everyone up to speed and on the same page has been a challenge. But the Baeza’s are super proud of their team, and they are excited to see how they perform come the tournament.
I sure wish I could have covered the rookies for all 36 teams. I would have had to write a whole book when covering Young Spine, and I just don’t have that type of time ha. Maybe I can cover players for their 2nd season. I also wish I could have put a picture with each person so you’d have a face to a name, but that would have taken forever as well. If teammates can tag their players that are mentioned, that’d be cool because I’d like to see who I’ve been covering haha.
I know they talked a little about this topic on the podcast, but what sport background gives you the best advantage when coming into the league, not including kickball experience? What sport are you trying to recruit players from? Personally I’d rather have baseball and softball players. I’d rather a player suck at kicking to start off, than suck at catching a ball and not knowing what to do on defense. I think a sport that should get more players recruited from is Ultimate Frisbee. Players with that background are usually quick and agile. If they can read the flight of a disc, they should be able to read a ball in the air easily. They should have great hands. I know throwing a disc is more about technique than strength, but I’m sure they still have strong arms.
Which rookies did I miss that are ballers? Who would be in the top 5 or 10 for rookies of the year?