A League of Their Own

Being an adult has its perks. You can go to bed when you want, and you could even eat ice cream for dinner if you choose. But sometimes being an adult also brings an end to the things you love, such as playing team sports.

Once you graduate from college, the opportunities to play on a team usually diminish greatly. Not for John Lovaglio and his wife Jillian Silk of Orlando. Both were high school and college athletes who loved the competition and camaraderie of being on a team. “Just because you aren’t in school anymore doesn’t mean your competitiveness goes away,” says Lovaglio. That’s why he and his wife play together on a co-ed kickball team.

For Lovaglio and Silk, the opportunity to make new friends and be together outdoors attracted them to the sport. Also, kickball has a bit of nostalgia factor. “Yes, it is the same game you played as a kid,” says Lovaglio. “In some ways you feel young again just playing this game. It’s pretty fun.”

All Walks of Life
From lawyers to plumbers and everything in between, Silk says kickball is a sport that offers a level playing field with little risk of injury. Injuries do happen, but rarely, Silk says. Every co-ed team must include four women, and they are required to play. Also, the teams Lovaglio and Silk play on are for participants 21 years old and up. Lovaglio says the median age for the teams he and his wife play on is mid-thirties.

Playing kickball for five years now, Lovaglio and Silk recently became league representatives for RedBall Social & Kickball (RBSK) league in Orlando. As reps, the two enjoy planning fun on and off the field. Teams in their league often have social activities where teammates can get points for trivia games and theme or costume parties. Adding to the social aspect, many teams are sponsored by bars and are able to enjoy drinks together after games. RBSK is sponsored by Hooch and Shine, which are bars on Wall Street.

People often learn about the league through the sponsors or by seeing the teams out enjoying a celebratory drink at a sponsor bar, but, for the most part, players find out about the league through friends. “We invited some of our friends to join and they invited friends and so on,” says Silk. “And I’m not saying kickball is a dating service, but we’ve seen plenty of people met their significant other through kickball.” Lovaglio adds that playing on a team is also a great way to do business networking.

Because Lovaglio and Silk are so competitive, they also play on a competitive kickball team outside of RBSK. The team, named Legit, has the opportunity to travel for tournaments with an organization called Kickball 365 and has won many of its tournament games. While participants also take part in social activities, winning is the priority. “We’ve gone to New Orleans; Austin, Texas; New York City, and other places with our travel team. We love the ability to see a new city, compete and socialize,” says Silk. “We especially love it when we win.”

A Great Workout
Mark “Marki” Mergarejo of Orlando says one of the reasons he joined an adult baseball league was to have the opportunity to exercise outdoors. “I keep in shape by doing CrossFit about six days a week, but I wanted to do some kind of team sport as well,” he says. That’s when he found Orlando Baseball Association (OBA). He’s been playing in an adult league for five years and currently plays on two teams: one for men 38 and over, and one for those 25 and older.

As the coach/manager of the 25 and older team, Mergarejo says he sees the younger guys being hard on themselves and the older guys trying to help them work through it. “Both want to win, but I think the older guys know it’s a game and are able to let it go a little easier. I see them helping the younger guys with that.”
Mergarejo also says both teams he plays on are social, but the main focus is playing to win. “I know other teams may put on events and enjoy a drink after a game, but with us, we tend to just want to play and maybe mingle to talk about the game a little and then go home,” says Mergarejo.

How do players hear about the baseball league? Mergarejo met some of the men he now plays with as an adult while playing Little League together as young boys. Others are friends of friends or work buddies. Word of mouth seems to be the most common way players find out about the league. “When I tell people that I play baseball they usually start talking about how they loved playing as a kid. I tell them to sign up and play. It’s not just for kids,” says Mergarejo.

Older and Wiser
Mergarejo, who is 40 years old now, admits he doesn’t physically bounce back as well as he did when he was younger. He also says injuries can happen, but they are fairly infrequent. “Most guys know their limits and can avoid injuries,” he says.

Like Lovaglio, Mergarejo says playing a team sport has been helpful to him in his business life as well. Being on an athletic team can help you hone your teambuilding and strategizing skills. “It’s a wonderful workout not just for your body but for your brain,” says Mergarejo.

With the availability of more and more adult athletic leagues in Orlando, you are no longer limited to watching from the sidelines. Get in the game and start enjoying team sports once again, just like you did when you were a kid.


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