The snow has thawed. The clocks are about to spring forward. The last overturned port-a-potty from Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day has been righted, cleaned, and taken back to the storehouse. These signs all point to only one thing.
It’s kickball season.
Yes, dear readers, the fabled tradition continues anew in this bright, shiny, young decade. Once more, my intrepid teammates and I will challenge our opponents–and ourselves–to still greater heights of amateur athleticism and professional alcohol consumption. Momma Johnson Park and Lounge 11 will once again be the battlefields on which we will ritually meet in contests of skill, will, and wit.
Yet even the most hallowed institutions must adapt to survive. I’m pleased to announce some major changes to not only the team, but to the way you’ll be following our exploits as well. Allow me to enumerate…
1) We changed our name. After going by the moniker “Vincent’s Drug Store”, a Sandlot salute I suggested seasons ago, we have gone through a corporate rebranding. I use this term specifically, since our new name honors (and I use the term loosely) our resident CEO, Scott. Henceforth, our team of twenty tossers shall be known as “Goddamnit, Gerber!”.
2) We have our own uniforms. As part of our new image, we found it necessary to politely decline the shirts provided by the league. That, and we have all accumulated so many ZogSports t-shirts after the many seasons we’ve spent together that the thought of having another just made us twitch. So, Volpe stepped up and took on the role of Team Shirtmaster and, with a little help from the design professionals at customink.com, created our fantastic new duds. I can only imagine how intimidated other teams will be when we arrive at the field.
3) We lost some players. Sadly, we’ll be starting this season without three of our most reliable members. MVPete has decided that kickball is no longer an appropriately challenging pursuit, and is focusing all his free time on training for a triathlon. Opting for a less unbelievable excuse, Nate and Julia both announced that they were going to take this season off. Apparently, we just need some time apart. But maybe in the summer, when they have more time and their heads are clear, they’ll be back. Yeah, yeah, who hasn’t been fed these lines before? Face it, kids: we got dumped by Jim and Pam.
4) Some players came back. Just like your first love, quicksand, and the Mafia as understood by an aging Michael Corleone, kickball is one of those things that never truly lets go of you. So perhaps our most recent deserters will be back after all. In the meantime, we can get excited for the more imminent returns of Rachel, who was only a part-time member of the squad last season, and Kish, our leaping left fielder, who comes back to us after having defected to another team. What changed his mind? Was it that he missed all the fun we had together? Did bad blood develop among his new teammates? Was it simply the promise of a new, made-to-order t-shirt? His reintegration to the team is just one of many crucial narratives to watch this season.
5) We recruited. We were not idle in the off-season. No, sir. We had our scouts canvassing the streets of Hoboken, ears to the ground, searching for any hot prospects. In spite of announced departures and returns, we took no chances and were determined to bring some new talent to the mix. Adding to what was already a crowded roster, we acquired four rookies; adorably, they come to us in pairs. Steinhaus, an off-the-field associate of Scott and Volpe, comes to us with the lovely Annie, and Rachel and I persuaded our long-time summer camp associates and new Hoboken residents George and Amanda to join the team as part of their orientation to life on the west bank of the Hudson. This will mark the first time that the four of us have engaged in competitive athletics together since Color War 1999. Seeing that written out is staggering.
6) You will be hearing from the rest of the team. I don’t just mean the usual Quote of the Week selection. Having long wanted to share in my blogging adventures, and knowing that there is considerable literary talent among my teammates, I am officially opening up the post-game recaps to authorship other than my own. I will be writing Week 1’s recap. After that, it’s anyone’s call. My hope is that by doing this, you’ll get to learn even more about some of these outlandish characters I spend my time with, and hear different perspectives on the games and our shenanigans as they unfolded. It will also mean that I can spend time doing things like cleaning my apartment and looking for a new job, which really should be more towards the top of my list of priorities.
Now, without further ado (and with embarrassing photos cribbed from Facebook), allow me to introduce the inaugural squad of Goddamnit, Gerber!.
Scott: Now adding Team Muse to his already vast collection of titles, we expect Scott to be back on the mound, and back to occasionally losing his balance on the follow-through. We are all eagerly waiting for that magic hour, that special night, when without explanation Scott will play better than he has ever played in his life..and go right back to sucking next week.
Volpe: Given his surprising sartorial skills (seen above and at right), I’m wondering what else the big guy has hidden up his sleeves. Typically, he’s played first base, but might he show some previously unknown talents elsewhere on the field? Could he be the one to replace MVPete at third, given their history of unmatched teamwork in beating runners to the bag?
Joe: If Volpe is the Shirtmaster, Joe is the Barmaster. Proprietor of Lounge 11, the official post-game hang-out, Joe sees to it personally that the team is collectively half in the bag within an hour of the final out. Joe also happens to be a skilled defensive player in the outfield, able to race in from the fences at astonishing speed. Those thoroughbred legs of his also mean that he is a menace for opposing pitchers. Home runs are not uncommon for Joe. Will he start the season out with one?
Josh: Once a blight upon the good name of kickball, Josh is now only a mere blemish on the good name of kickball. Despite his propensity for being nominated for, if not outright winning, the Weekly Not En Fuego Award, I have a feeling that this could be Josh’s year. He’s got the power, but does he have the focus? I hope so, for his sake. After all, he does live with…
Rachel: Our team wouldn’t be complete with our resident life coach/cheerleader/trial attorney/mudslinger. She’s equally dangerous whether in the baselines or on the sidelines. After making all the right fielding decisions, she chews refs up and spits them out at the feet of our douchiest opponents. Her full-time status will surely light a fire under the team that was lacking in her weeks away.
Spitz: She’s every bit Rachel’s equal in terms of dedication, determination, and sheer chutzpah. What’s in the water over in Livingston? Spitz will once again be back to do what she does best: pitch when Scott has flamed out, bunt at every possible opportunity, and construct batting orders behind a shroud of secrecy so impenetrable that the CIA has tried recruiting her.
JR: Known briefly as Leroy, JR is an outstanding utility player. His coverage of first base in Volpe’s absence was exceptional, and may just hasten the transition I suggested earlier. I expect JR to be frustrating opponents from many different places on the field, as well as at the plate. Finally, it is entirely possible that beneath that hat is an outstanding, albeit fake, mustache.
Liz: The lovely Liz did not make it to as many games as her main man, JR, but I hope that we’ll see more of her this season. I take her choice of costume (or Casual Friday selection; one shouldn’t assume) to be a reflection of her personality: a cordial, approachable exterior disguising a heart of mischief and mayhem that could get both friend and foe into a whole lot of trouble.
Jenny: Speaking of trouble, may I reintroduce you all to Jenny? A social butterfly who does not suffer fools gladly, Jenny plays to win both on the field and at the bar. Rugby players have fewer bruises on them than Jenny usually does after a game, and they can hold almost as much liquor. Jenny doesn’t just run with the big dogs; she holds the leashes.
Kish: The prodigal son of kickball returns this year. Will he still race around the bases faster than a speeding bullet? Will his kicks be more powerful than a locomotive? Will he still leap tall fences in a single bound? Is there a blazing red “S” beneath that carpet of chest hair, or is he just another lame-ass Clark Kent? Time will tell.
Steinhaus: I’ll confess that my scouting report on this guy, one of our four rookies, is lacking. All I know is that he throws a good party and is a fellow blogger. That’s almost enough to excuse him from needing to have even the slightest smidgen of athletic ability. Based on this photo, perhaps we’ll be working Steinhaus into our pitching rotation, where that freakishly disproportionate arm of his will give our opponents something to worry about at the plate.
Annie: Similarly, I have little to report on rookie Annie, other than that she has always responded with intense enthusiasm to any offer for a pre-season happy hour. She also elected to have her uniform bear the title “Asian Sensation” across the back. Consider me intrigued. Anyone this ballsy deserves a place on the team. Welcome aboard, Annie.
Amanda: Despite being a noob, I’ve actually known Amanda longer than I have most of the rest of the team. She’s a natural fit for the squad. A born leader and a natural competitor, I expect Amanda to bring lots of heart to Momma Johnson Park each week. With over half a dozen Apache Relays under her belt, there are few people more qualified to handle the intense pressures of a close kickball game under the lights.
George: Being a year older than Amanda, I guess George is one of those few people. A man of few words, George excels at silent, psychological intimidation. For many years in our shared summers past, he was the only camper with legitimate facial hair. Those prickly pubescent whiskers said it all: do not fuck with this. He’s softened (and shaved) since then, but the fighting spirit is still there inside him. If he gets half as riled up about kickball as he does about the Jets…or that safety school in Bethlehem, PA…he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Stacy: Since we’re talking about unstoppable forces, let’s talk about the bundle of kinetic energy that is Stacy. Our sassy, brassy team dance captain, she doesn’t just put the extra Y in SKYY vodka; she puts the “Why not?” in it, too. Stacy works hard, plays harder, and parties hardest. Now that she’s fully healed from last year’s series of injuries, I’m eager to have Stacy back out in the field where she can trash-talk base runners, share hilarious stories from work, and boogie on down all the way back to the dugout.
Tony: Being a regular fixture at our team gatherings, we finally told Tony that he had to put in the necessary work if he wanted to enjoy the spoils of victory/defeat. He eagerly agreed. Having shown his stuff a few times last year, when he was called up to fill in for male absentees, full-time Tony could be a big help in getting us back to the play-offs. Yeah, that’s right; I’ve already got my eyes on the post-season.
Eric: Alternately known as 3ric, since he was the third Eric to join our team since its inception. Despite being older than dirt, Eric is as spry as a newborn gazelle. He is remarkably fast and surprises opponents each time he rounds the bases. Sometimes he manages to round them twice on one kick. Kickball aficionados across the county are waiting to see if his defense will match his offense this season.
Jill: Even though some people think she’s the oldest member of the team (Josh), she isn’t. A well-bred beauty from Boston, Jill has a bit of the stereotypical Southie in her. She staunchly defends second base against overeager base runners twice her size, and even if she doesn’t make the play, we know she’ll out-drink that sucker at the bar in half an hour. Those who underestimate Jill often wind up not remembering the tale to tell it. Of course, sometimes she doesn’t either.
Erin: You may think that Erin is just running her mouth from the moment she laces up her custom kickball sneakers until we shake hands with the other team after the game, producing an unfathomable pile of stream-of-consciousness verbal diarrhea rather than paying any attention to the game unfolding around her, but you’d be wrong. Her playmaking instincts have sharpened so significantly that she routinely heads for the infield instead of her typical place behind the plate. Will this be the year she outplays as well as outtalks the competition?
Yours Truly: I’m not sure what to say for myself this season. I’m reliable in right field, but perhaps it’s time to shake things up. Can I think quickly enough on my feet to play third base like my Latin lover (A-Rod, not MVPete)? Does my size, low center of gravity, and bizarre fondness of squats qualify me for the catcher’s spot? A collision at the plate could be a play of seismic proportion, given some of the brutes we’ve encountered in the past. Most importantly, will I master some new popular dance routine that will keep people from requesting “Single Ladies” before I leave the bar?
These questions, and many more, are sure to be answered as the season unfolds. The schedule was finally released, and our first match is next Thursday at 6:45. Wanting to be sure that we are ready to start the season off right, the members of Goddamnit, Gerber! are assembling tonight at Lounge 11 for a taxing practice regiment of 12, 5, and 1 and 1/2 ounce curls. If nothing else, we aim to be prepared.
See you out there, kids. Stay tuned.