After taking just one season off from HallBall in the fall of 2018, the league’s founder, Trey McPhaul, knew he had to bring the adult kickball league back.
“I never thought it would grow to this point,” McPhaul said. “When we started, I used to have to call (Gainesville Parks and Recreation) and beg them for just one hour on one field between little league baseball games … Now they call me.”
The league will return to the Lanier Point Athletic Complex March 14 through May 9. Registration is $54 per person, but there are discounts for teams of 11 or more players. Rules for the game are the same as baseball, except players get four strikes, four balls and players can strike out on foul balls. Players can also peg each other with the ball.
What: Adult kickball league
Where: Lanier Point Athletic Complex, 1579 Lee Waldrip Drive NW, Gainesville
When: Thursdays, March 14-May 9More info: Website
McPhaul said taking a season off seemed to help Hall’s heart grow fonder. He already has 10 teams registered and is hoping to get to 12 or more. Registration ends March 4.
“It’s just a fun thing to do and something positive after work — get some exercise, run around and it’s good for team building and morale for the office,” said Matt Leipold, an attorney with the Hall County Public Defender Office, which has a team in the league. “It always starts out pretty calm, but when it’s a close game, it gets pretty heated.”
He’s been a part of HallBall since 2014, recruiting most of his co-workers at the office to join the team — named the Gainesvillains — that has won three championships over the years.
Chloe Owens, also an attorney with the Public Defender Office, moved to Gainesville recently and quickly joined the team. She played her first season with the team and has been hoping the league would start back up ever since.
“My first season was really good,” Owens said. “It was a lot of fun. It does get competitive … But it was good enough to come back.”
McPhaul said another team that has stood out is the Holy Rollers, a team from Lakewood Baptist Church. Other than those two, companies like Kubota, Mansfield Energy Corp., Mellow Mushroom, Carroll Daniel Construction, Syfan Logistics and other groups of friends and coworkers who typically join the league.
And that’s what it was all about when HallBall started.
McPhaul was playing kickball with some friends at his daughter’s first birthday party when they thought about the sport being an organized event, similar to intramural sports in college or adult softball leagues. Once they looked into it, they found a company in Atlanta, where the McPhaul family was living at the time, and decided to join. After a few seasons in that league, they moved to Gainesville and wanted to continue playing, but didn’t want to commute to the Atlanta area every week.
So in 2013, he founded HallBall.
“I just love kickball, and love being around people, so that’s really the reason why,” McPhaul said.
He doesn’t take himself too seriously — he laughs quite a bit when he talks about the league — but McPhaul said the teams do.
“There are some people that get pretty serious,” said McPhaul, who mainly sits on the sidelines and enjoys watching and occasionally refereeing now. “They’re crazy with the way they pitch the ball. (A pitcher) struck me out swinging two years ago. I didn't foul out. I kicked myself in the shin trying to kick a ball.”
For McPhaul, who’s in the software business by day, it’s a way to get out in the community and get to know people. That’s what he said he enjoys and what he wants to offer others in the area.
“It’s just fun to get out and meet other adults,” McPhaul said. “You just get to go outside and run around like you’re in fourth grade again. That's pretty much it. There’s not a ton to it. It’s just fun to play kickball sometimes.”
And that’s where his mind goes every time he’s around the game. He said he vividly remembers playing kickball in elementary school, scheming with friends to make sure they were on the same team so they could beat the other kids. Now, a couple decades later and he’s making money — albeit not a lot of money — off the sport most adults have fond memories of.
“It just amazes me that I make any money,” McPhaul said, laughing. “The first three seasons we broke even. That was it and we were happy because we had a kickball league.”
But it’s not all blowing off steam for the players, some of whom remain deadly serious about their team and the league.
“One defensive mistake that loses a game and you’re going to get yelled at,” Leipold said. “You’re going to get some criticism for it.”
While it is a business, and McPhaul owns the league, he said he doesn’t see it as work.
“It’s just fun to get out there and talk to people about whatever and heckle them while they’re playing kickball,” McPhaul said.