A few months ago Dave Bennett was flipping through channels when he came upon a BBC America episode of "The Nanny'' where the parents were part of a kickball league. The director of competitive sports at the Fort Wayne Sport Club, Bennett got an idea and quickly called buddy John Drebenstedt who works in marketing and promotions for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
What better way to raise money for kids than by asking adults to act like kids?
BBBS is hosting on the "Kickin' it for Kids' Sake" charity kickball tournament Saturday at the Sport Club. Play starts for 16 teams at 10 a.m. and will last through at least midafternoon.
"Everybody loves kickball," said Jessica Miller, marketing and administration assistant at Fort Wayne International Airport. "No matter what you are interested in, everybody makes time for kickball and everybody knows how to play. It was pretty easy for me to talk nine other people into playing."
Some teams talked about practicing sometime this week, and a few players said they have tried to get a run in or a bike ride to work on their legs, but the most serious preparation may be purchasing tube socks with colored rings around the top.
"I always feel like if I can make somebody smile or help them out, that's even better," said Josh Cook of American Eagle Outfitters. "That's satisfaction enough for me. If it's a crucial game or something, it's not the score that's as important as the common good."
After signing up, American Eagle Manager Adam Hofacker attended a family reunion recently where he mentioned the tournament, encouraging family members to take a ball to the park for a game.
"We had a lot of fun with everybody," he said. "It definitely brings out your inner kid and takes you back to backyard sport. You have to be careful because everybody tries to kick it too hard or leans back too far."
And there really is an athletic component to this. Todd Fry of Sharp School Services played in a charity kickball tournament a few years ago, and it sounds like he's only recently recovered.
"I've been telling everybody that it's a little more physically demanding than what it was when you were 11," Fry said. "The last time, I must have pulled my quad or something because when I drove around for the next week I had to literally pick up my leg and move it off the gas to use the brake. I've always played sports in a church basketball league, softball league and such, but I never felt anything like I did the next day when I woke up. I couldn't even tie my shoes."
But he can't wait to play again. The only thing everyone remembers about kickball is the fun they had as kids.
There will be medical professionals playing in the tournament, but maybe the best medicinal aspects will be pain-killing beverages on hand. Hydration will be key though few teams will want make it to the championship game and have to play all day in the heat.
There are actual rules, too, following the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) format. The games last five innings and about 45 minutes, and each team is guaranteed at least two games. Bases are 60 feet apart and there are no home run fences. Sprinting around the bases may sound like a great idea – the first time.
"We're hoping the rules include beaning people in the head," said Pyromation's Kim Femoglio with a laugh. "If that's the case, we're in like Flynn."
Nope, everything is from the shoulders down, and no matter how hard you try, it's hard to throw a kickball hard enough to leave a mark. Teams are made up of five males and five females, and ghost runners are prohibited. (Boo!)
All tie games are settled by playing rock-paper-scissors. No, really.
"If the game is still tied when time elapses, regardless of the number of innings played, play must stop and a winner must be determined using the RPS procedure," the rules say. "RPS shall be played out as follows: 3 representatives from each team shall pair off and play head-to-head best 2 out of 3. The team that wins two rounds of these pairings shall win the kickball game and advance in the tournament."
Wow, who took this seriously enough to design rock-paper-scissors rules?
Actually, Fort Wayne International Airport Director of Operations Craig Williams, 42, was part of the Washington, D.C. league where WAKA started in 1998.
"My wife still has the shirt," Williams said. "It was just a lot of fun because it was kickball, for goodness' sakes. Nobody played for anything else besides getting together and socializing and then heading out afterwards to a bar. The only thing less stressful is being on a boat with a beverage."
Still, some teams are trying to gain a competitive edge by adding soccer players. Pyromation enlisted Tammy Smith who was the kicker for the Fort Wayne Flash women's football team.
Maybe the only thing missing are 10-year old coaches for each team and lots of screaming, but there's talk of expanding next year to include a youth division.
Some teams will probably play for blood, but everyone is hoping nothing gets more injured than a bruised pride or two. Then there can be plenty of trash talk about what's going to happen on the playground the next day. Oops, the next year.
At best, it will bring out the inner child in the participants, and at worst, there are going to be a lot of very sore people limping around Sunday who had a lot of laughs.
"Even though you want to run up there and kick the ball like you did in third grade, you still have to remember that you're a little older now," said Carey Roth, vice president of Aegis Sales & Engineering Inc. "I imagine we'll be having a lot of fun."