By Jane Lawrence
In the spring of 2013, Glen Cove resident Sal Farruggia approached Darcy Belyea, the city’s director of parks and recreation, with a novel idea: “Let’s start a co-ed adult kickball league.”It sounded unusual, but Belyea thought at the time that it was “definitely an idea worth taking a chance on.”
Now, six seasons later, that “chance” has turned out to be a winner. LI-Kick has proven its staying power and has developed into a truly viable recreation option for adults from Glen Cove and the surrounding areas. Each season has seen an increase in the number of teams and the number of players. This season there are 255 players and 19 teams, both records for the league, which plays on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the John Maccarone Memorial Stadium.
“I can tell you this,” said Farruggia, “in terms of total annual teams and numbers of players, LI-Kick has now surpassed Long Beach as the biggest kickball league on Long Island.”
The league’s success is based on offering a simple combination of competition and camaraderie. Players range from those who are just out for a good time to those who take the game very seriously. After the games, league members gather at local pubs and restaurants for any number of social activities. New to the after-game activity schedule this year is the “Bar Champs” competition. Teams gather after the kickball games and compete to earn points for attending, posting pictures and winning games, which might include the laugh-inducing Twister or Human Musical Chairs.
“Sal [Farruggia] is passionate about kickball,” said Laura Pollicino of East Meadow, who has played in the league since its inception. “He sends out weekly emails, he makes playoff predictions and he posts pictures and videos.” This keeps the players returning season after season.
“The statistic I am perhaps the most proud of is the 81 percent return rate,” said Farruggia. “Eighty-one percent of the players in the current season have played in the league previously.”
Among the returnees is Carlos Upson, captain of the Thursday night team, Whiskey Business. Upson and his team, comprised mostly of fellow graduates from Mineola High School, got their start in the winter indoor mini-season and returned for the fall league.
“Everyone got older and busy with jobs and life. This league has brought us together again and has given us a chance to be kids again,” said Upson. Whiskey Business was in first place among the Thursday night teams going into the playoffs.
Also returning for a second season is Glen Cove’s Joe Bombardiere, captain of Tuesday night’s Fireballs. Bombardiere joined last season with a friend and they were put on a team with other miscellaneous players. The team decided to stay together for the fall season. Although they have not won many games, the Fireballs are full of spirit and have become great friends.
“We have a lot of fun,” said Bombardiere. “We stand on the sidelines with thunder sticks and chant our teammates’ names. We go out together after the games and have participated together in recent walks for pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.”
In the Tuesday night playoffs, held on the lower fields on Oct. 20, the Fireballs were pitted against All About the Base in the Division C playoff. Both teams were evenly matched and full of spirit. For these teams, it’s all about having fun. In a tight match, All About the Base came out the winner, defeating the Fireballs 8-7.
Meanwhile, on the upper fields, competition was fierce as the Alcoballics battled returning champions, the Green Street Elite, for the Division A championship. Despite a good fight on behalf of the Alcoballics, the Green Street Elite held onto their championship status. The Tequila Mockingbirds won in Division B.
Thursday night playoffs were held on Oct. 29. In Division A, Whiskey Business came out the victor, proving that hard work and dedication can yield results even for a relatively new team. Thursday night’s Division B championship was won by Plum Loco.
In addition to the regular fall and spring leagues, LI-Kick offers an indoor league in the winter, a Super League (limited to four ultra-competitive teams) and a traveling National Team that plays in national competition. The indoor league plays at the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club gymnasium during January and February and offers a twist to the game, as the ball can rebound off the ceilings and walls. The Super League runs in the month of November only. The top players in the league are drafted onto four even teams. According to Farruggia, the Super League is “the most competitive league on Long Island by design.”
LI-Kick’s traveling National Team played in three tournaments this past summer against nationwide competition. Twenty-two elite players comprise the team and 12 to 16 players attended each individual tournament. In this, their first year on the road, they achieved a combined record of four wins, nine losses and one tie.
“The team didn’t do very great in this first year,” said Farruggia, “but we will definitely continue.”
Further information about the league can be found by visiting www.li-kick.com and checking out their video presentation. Registration is already closed for the popular winter indoor league. Registration for the spring league begins online in January. Games start the last week of April. Registration is $65 and one can sign up with a team, with a group of friends or as an individual. All teams are co-ed with approximately equal numbers of males and females on each team.