A new team of gays, lesbians and their friends has been stirring up the dust on the kickball field this spring.
Team Brighton has just joined the City of Murray Parks and Recreation Adult Kickball League. The team, which has members of all sexual orientations, is having a great time playing the other teams in the league every Wednesday night at the Murray Park softball fields.
“I saw an ad for the league and I took a picture of the ad and sent it to my friends from my cell phone,” said coach and kickball motivator, Amanda Groendyke. “I was surprised at how many of my friends wanted to participate.”
Groendyke, 36, was born and raised in Salt Lake City, but was recently laid off in February. Since then she has been traveling to Atherton, Calif. to concentrate on graduating from an online graduate program at her aunt’s home.
“If I’m here, I’ll just form a kickball team, for no other reason than not to study,” Groendyke joked. “Everyone was following up and this person wanted to play a specific position, and everyone was fighting over what color the T-shirts should be.”
The spring season of league play in Murray brought together seven teams with names like ‘Over the Hill Gang’ and ‘Playground Bullies.’ Each team can have as many members as they would like, but only 18 can show up to play in the games. Eleven players are allowed on the field and four of them must be female. Two umpires call each game, one on the field while the other watches the score board and keeping track of outs and each team’s rosters.
“I have another friend that has been playing on another league and has told me in the past how much fun it had been, so I jumped at the chance to play,” said Kim Doyle, who is straight and playing for the first time. “I think that having an excuse to see my friends once a week has been the best thing! Everyone is so busy and going in their own directions that I think it’s great to have an activity that is planned and everyone shows up.”
Doyle and Groendyke had met previously and had become ‘instant’ friends. When registering for the league online, Groendyke thought that the team needed to have a business connected to it.
“I work at Brighton and we all love to ski and ride there, so that may have helped her in her choice,” added Doyle. “My family thinks it’s great! They even come and watch and cheer us on. I think I like it because it really doesn’t take a whole lot of skill. It’s cheap entertainment and I love the atmosphere of playing on a team with really great people and not really caring if we win or loose, but just having a really good time.”
The game proceeds like a regular softball game. Each team alternates innings with three outs in each inning. To get a player out, the ball can be caught in the air after the kicker kicks from home plate. It can reach the base and be caught by the baseman before the runner reaches the base, or be thrown hitting the runner as the runner is on his or her way to the base. The ball is an oversized soft rubber ball and doesn’t hurt when it hits.
“I’m versatile and usually alternate pitching and catching,” said Jake Rosequist, coach and an openly gay member of the Queer Utah Aquatic Club. “I’ve haven’t noticed any homophobia, however, I do let my ‘gurl’ out and at times it seems the other teams are confused, especially when this big ‘gurl’ can kick and run.”
Rosequist says that running has helped increase his endurance and noticed it when running the bases. “Originally, I thought it would be easy, hell no. But I will say it’s much easier than trying to hit a ball with a stick. I love the work out, but I’ve learned it’s not good to slide into a base.”
If a team kicks through their whole roster in an inning and doesn’t reach three outs, the inning is ended and the other team gets to kick. Some teams, such as Raging Raccoons, have been playing since grade school and are very accomplished at kicking and fielding the ball. With the best record at this point in the season, Raging Raccoons are the team to beat.
“What I enjoy most is the camaraderie and the fact that it’s not so serious,” said Rosequist. “I knew of most members but this has given me an opportunity to actually get to know them in a friendship sort of way. I also enjoy how those that are straight on the team have no issue with sexuality or playing with gay players.”
At the end of June, the seven current kickball teams will meet for a tournament and play for the spring kickball championship, Session I. Murray Parks and Recreation will start a Session II running from July 7–Sept. 8. Each team that registers is required to pay at $220 fee.
Team Brighton divided up this fee evenly among the members, which also included the cost of the T-shirts.
Another gay Team Brighton member is Felipe Pacheco. “I have played baseball and softball since I was in grade school. I love playing sports,” said Pacheco, who currently sponsors the Los Gatos softball team in the Pride League. “I’ve sponsored the team for the past two years but have played in the same team for the past nine. On the Pride League I play second base.”
Pacheco also pitches and plays short stop on a team in the Salt Lake County softball league which plays Monday nights. He also plays short stop on Team Brighton.
“One of my friends was asked to play so he invited me to play as well,” said Pacheco. “It sounded fun and if you want to reach in and find your inner child, this is the place. It’s just like you are in elementary school again.”
Team Brighton is evenly divided between male and female players. And while most of the team is openly gay, it has straight players, too.
“I first enjoy letting friends and family know about the league first. I get great reactions from them regarding the sport and I always look forward to what people have to say,” said Ryan Holbrook, 27, and one of Team Brighton’s straight male players. “In almost every case, I actually do mention the orientation of the team after to express and solidify my stand as an ally of the LGBT community and a friend to all on the team. Often it sparks further discussion regarding the community which I enjoy talking about.”
Holbrook grew up in Davis County and graduated from Viewmont High. He later attended the University of Utah for a business degree. After spending three and a half years in Daybreak where he bought a home, he has recently moved to Salt Lake City to enjoy a younger, single and urban demographic.
“[I’m] still single but actively dating. I’m waiting for all these gay guys to set me up with all of their single, straight girlfriends,” said Holbrook. “The fact that I was willing to admit in their eyes that I was part of a LGBT team should impart to people that there is nothing strange or off about the community and not everyone is a stereotype or should be timid about gay friends. In my own opinion, if someone believes me to be gay after the discussion, based on my own personal beliefs I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
For out lesbian couple Heather Archuleta and Jill Stringham kickball is a family affair.
“I have two kids, Holden, 18, and Haley, 13. Holden plays on the team. Haley usually comes to every game also to cheer us on,” said Archuleta. “She even got to play on an opposite team once because they were short a player.”
Archuleta says the family all just started to play and learned the game as they went. Soon, they figured out where they best fit on the field. Stringham also plays in the Pride Softball league on the Los Gatos team. Archuleta is a pitcher on Team Brighton and figured out that rolling the ball slowly worked the best.
“I can’t really play anything else,” said Archuleta. “Thought it would be fun and bring back memories of when I was a kid. We used to play kickball all the time in elementary school.”
As the spring session ends, Team Brighton hopes to get enough players to return for Session II. Team Brighton likes to have fun and occasionally dresses up in wigs and costumes to be playful and to throw off the other team. After the game on a Wednesday night, the team usually celebrates the fun they had by meeting at a local Mexican restaurant and drinking Coronas.
Team Brighton is still learning the ropes and has not won a game, but is having great fun on the field. And if you were wondering what color the team finally chose for their T-shirts, it was heather, which is a light purple.
For more information about Team Brighton, send an email to Amanda Groendyke at Amanda@tri-teva.com or check out the team photos on Heather Archuleta’s face book page. For more information about Murray City Parks and Recreation Adult Kickball League, check out murray.utah.gov.