Mahoning County resident Chad Thorne had been searching for another way to stay active ever since his "retirement" from his 14-year softball career. But for 36-year-old Thorne, "There aren't many organized leagues that you can join as you get older."
Anthony Magnetta, 33, was in the same situation. "I'd tried putting a softball league together to have a more athletic sport available to people, but it didn't work because people weren't showing up," said Magnetta, from Boardman. "It's difficult to get a whole team together at our age."
Members of the Kickball League of Ohio play Wednesday at Pemberton Park and Gibson Field in Youngstown.
There is an obvious lack of organized sports for people in their late twenties or older. But Thorne and Magnetta, and others like them, eventually found a solution.
That solution came in the form of the Kickball League of Ohio.
For the majority of people, kickball is something they used to play on those bright and sunny days in grade school. But according to the kickball league, kickball is not necessarily a sport that stays in grade school or gym class. It can be a sport that an adult can play with just as much energy and enjoyment - if not more.
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for a link to the Kickball League of Ohio Web site.
Michelle Pascale, 40, has been the "head commissioner" of the Kickball League of Ohio since the league's creation three years ago. She runs all the divisions in Ohio, including 20 teams in the Youngstown area, six teams in Canton, and six teams in Akron.
Pascale said her goal for the Kickball League of Ohio is giving adults an outlet for socializing with new and interesting people, as well as helping people find a physical activity that everyone can participate in.
"Back when I was in sports, it was more of a job," Pascale said. "You were there to win and that was it. But with this kickball league, it's more about having fun, not just winning."
Pascale said the league was initiated through the financial backing of Jim Figlozi, the creator of the Kickball League of Baltimore in 2004. Figlozi organizes more than 250 teams in the Baltimore area, which adds up to more than 4,000 people. It was Figlozi's program that inspired Pascale to start a similar program in Ohio. "After I saw what he did with (his league), I thought it would be great to bring here," Pascale said.
Pascale said that to garner interest in the league, she had flyers posted around Youngstown and surrounding areas. "I posted 50 flyers," she said. "Four weeks later, I had seven teams."
Pascale said at first she was worried about the league not being taken seriously. "But then people started showing up," she said. "Now, I've never seen people have so much fun. It's honestly amazing how much these people enjoy it. It truly boggles my mind."
She said the response was incredible, saying that people even came from areas where she hadn't marketed, including Howland, Niles and Canfield. "Now we have 20 teams," Pascale said.
Jason Cuddy, 32, and Chrissy Engelis, 31, both have participated in the league since its first season. "Man, I feel old," said Cuddy. "It's been five seasons already. It's just been such a great experience. It doesn't feel that long ago since I started."
Cuddy first heard about the league from a coworker. "It sounded like a great way to get to know my fellow employees," he said. Fifteen co-workers joined him in the kickball league. Three years later, 12 of them are still playing. "It's a sport that never gets boring," Cuddy said. "It's a nice way to get out and socialize during the week, because it's hard to do that with all the distractions of work."
Thorne said the sport involves more than people think. "There is a strategy to the game," he said. "It's not about just going out there and kicking a ball around. It can be challenging."
Liberty resident Stephanie Camardese, 26, has played in the kickball league for the last two years. She said her motivation for joining was mainly for socialization, as most of her friends had moved away. "This was something athletic to do, and it was a big social thing to meet people who were about my age," she said. "Most of my friends I have right now are from the kickball league."
Pascale said she believes the positive reactions to the league comes from its dissimilarity with other sports. "It's not like your softball and not your soccer," she said. "It's something different." Pascale said the league's co-organizer D'Nelle Seiple described the appeal to kickball as "the equalizer," as "everyone becomes equal out there on the field. People of all skills can play."
"It just sounded like a funny idea to have a bunch of adults play a kid's game," Engelis said.
Age is not a problem with the league. "I have seen people in their early fifties have a great time with this," said Cuddy. "Kickball is just one of those sports that really anybody can play."
Three years later, Pascale still believes she made a good decision in starting the league. "Now I know I was right to do it," she said. "It gives people something fun to get their minds off their jobs and their problems. Especially with our hard economic times, it seems even more relevant than ever."