Saturday, May. 28, 2011
By JOEY HOLLEMAN – firstname.lastname@example.org
Who knew? Kickball, a game that for decades was forgotten after grade school, turns out to be an ideal means for adults to find a mate.
At least that’s the experience for the Grasskickers of the Columbia kickball league. In six years, four couples have married after first meeting at Grasskicker games or practices. The littlest Grasskicker, 19-month-old Vann Mullis, is the progeny of one of those marriages.
“Kickball’s better than match.com,” joked Colleen Mullis, mother of Vann, wife of Stephen and founder of the Grasskickers in 2005. “When you’re playing, you’re real. You’re just out making fools of yourself playing kickball.”
“It has something to do with meeting people under no pretenses,” Stephen Mullis surmised.
“In normal dating, you have control over the presentation,” said Jen Hunsicker, who first connected with her husband Jon at Grasskicker practices. “Here it’s no makeup, no dress up.
“What did I have to worry about when we started dating? He’d already seen me covered in mud. I thought, wait till he sees me in a dress.”
Colleen and Stephen weren’t looking for love six years ago.
Colleen saw a story in The State about the forming of a new kickball league in Columbia and recruited several friends to play with her. Stephen heard about the league and wanted to play, but he didn’t have a team of his own.
League organizers stuck him on Colleen’s team, and the rest is family history.
First practices in early June. Team bonding in post-practice outings to restaurants. Some bond more than others. Colleen and Stephen’s first real date is June 25. They are married the next June 3. Their fifth anniversary is this month.
Before kickball, Colleen had joined a young professionals group. “I thought I might meet somebody through that,” she said. “But I thought I’d play kickball just for fun, not to meet somebody or network for my job.”
Colleen had been friends with Jen and Jon before kickball, but they were in separate orbits of her world.
Colleen didn’t trying to fix them up through kickball. It just happened.
“After the first few practices and games, I knew it was easy to talk with Jon,” Jen said. “And that was before all the date pressures.”
Jen actually recalls the moment she was sure Jon was more than just another guy on the team who was fun to hang around with.
A bunch of Grasskickers stuck around after one of their games to watch the next game, in the rain no less. Jon and Jen were beside each other. Jen’s purse started to slip off her shoulder, and Jon reached around and pulled it back up. She appreciated his attentiveness.
Jon and Jen stretched out the dating process more than Colleen and Stephen. They’ve been married three years.
Another member of that early Grasskickers team was guilty of cavorting with the enemy. Back in the early days of the local kickball league (before it exploded in popularity and lost a bit of the collegiality), most teams gathered in Kelly’s Pub after games. A female member of the Ballrockers worked up enough liquid courage to start up a conversation with Jimmy Martin of the Grasskickers.
They hit it off, and, with their teams playing against each other shortly thereafter, they bet on the game. The loser had to get dinner.
“I ended up making dinner for him,” Sarah Martin recalled. “We dated for two years, and in the fall of 2008, we were married in Jamaica.”
The Martins and the other Grasskickers couple — Erin and Rich McCaskill — haven’t been able to fit kickball into their schedules in recent years. But plenty of other couples have taken their places throughout the league. The green grass and orange clay at Earlewood Park seem to be a better forum for matchmaking than eHarmony.com.
Almost every team has some couple that met playing kickball, Jen Hunsicker said.
Melissa and Ryan Toole joined the Balls of Glory team just a couple of months after they started dating. They found the kickball diamond was an ideal place to get to know each other.
“It’s another way to get together and hang out with friends,” Melissa said after Balls of Glory beat the Grasskickers May 25 in their final regular-season spring season game.
Melissa and Ryan’s one-year anniversary is Sunday.
Asked what they would have done if Balls of Glory had had a game scheduled on their anniversary, Ryan glanced toward Melissa.
“We would have played kickball,” she said.