Absecon resident Justine Daly has played softball at the Pitney Park Fields in Absecon since she was young, and her father, Jake, has almost always been there to cheer her on. But on July 17, it was Dad's turn to take the spotlight.
Justine, pushed up against a fence parallel to the third-base line, snapped pictures of her dad in action as part of the Absecon Social and Athletic Club's new adult kickball league, remarking about the role reversal.
"I play softball here, and he's always here," she said. "It's kind of weird to see it, like, opposite."
The league, which held its first games July 10, was created by ASAC volunteer Audra Wenner, whose husband, Ryan, had urged her to put a program together since the couple took part in a similar league in Northfield about eight years ago.
This year, Wenner finally did, and the league was an immediate hit, drawing about 100 members spread across six teams.
Wenner said she believes it's the simplicity and accessibility of the game that have allowed the league to become so popular in such a short time.
"You don't have to be a great athlete to play it," Wenner said. "Anybody can walk up to bat and kick the ball and run around the bases."
The league meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. for a games that last seven innings or 50 minutes, whichever is shorter, and will do so through Aug. 14.
Many participants bring their kids along to the games and, like Daly, they cheer from the stands. In addition, a few kids staff a concession stand, the proceeds from which are donated to Margate-based nonprofit Our Children Making Change.
Playing in the league is as much about camaraderie as it is about the fun of the game, said league member Suzanne McGettigan, whose team erupted in cheers as she put a ball in deep right field during warm-ups. But while the atmosphere is friendly, that doesn't mean the competitors don't take it seriously.
"I wanted to participate in something in Absecon that wasn't competitive, and I'm finding it's very competitive," McGettigan said. "I have butterflies."
Wenner hardly advertised the league, much of whose membership heard about it through word of mouth, but it has proven popular. As awareness of the league has spread, many have called about the possibility of joining late.
Wenner said she didn't anticipate the league to be as big as it is, but she's glad it has taken off. She hopes to run the league again next year, and expects the sophomore effort to be that much larger.
"Now Rodney (Ruark) is getting phone calls off the hook from a million people who want to play," Wenner said. "I think next year, we'll have at least time and a half of what we have right now, if not double."
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