Female kickball pitchers have turned sexist stereotypes upside down, going from under-appreciated afterthoughts to in-demand hurlers whose skill and savvy determines which teams see postseason glory at McCarren Park.
In the early years of the Brooklyn Kickball League, teams regularly put their least powerful kickers, often women, on the pitching mound — using the position as a way to appease league rules requiring teams to keep six female players on the roster and four on the field at all times.
But in recent seasons, top tier teams have realized that defense wins ball games — and a good pitcher is the keystone to a good defense.
“Too many people underestimate the value of a good pitcher,” said League Commissioner Kevin Dailey. “A pitcher covers the bases, knows where the ball is, and makes good plays in the field.”
Few do it better than Mathlete Adrian “The Denominator” Spatzer — a third-year hurler widely considered to be the league’s most difficult pitcher to face.
“You have to have someone on the mound who can control the tempo of the game and is a pitcher the team can trust,” said Spatzer, whose earned run average is under 2.
Spatzer mixes devastating curveballs both inside and outside of the plate — then jams kickers when they least expect it with fastballs right down the middle.
The result is often a foul-ball or a harmless pop-up, and sometimes even a strikeout, which happens when a kicker fouls the ball away three times during a plate appearance.
“The goal is for them to foul out or pop up because it is hard to hit a fast curveball,” said Spatzer, who played softball in college but mastered her pitching while bowling during the league’s winter offseason. “My defense behind me is solid. I trust them.”
And they trust her.
“She is on point all of the time — if someone kicks it to her, she’s going to catch it,” said Mathlete utility player Sarah “Plus One” Koniarski. “You don’t want to kick it to Adrian unless you want to get out.”
Spatzer and other female aces, including American Blood star Wendy “Push Pop” Gallo, Pony Boys roller Courtney “The Italian Stallion” Kessler, and the New Frontiersmen’s double-barrelled threats Jordan “Mountaintop” Peak and Jessica “All-American” Seibert, are highly coveted when teams are short players and need to add a body to fill out their roster.
Seibert, a fifth-year starter, has built a reputation as one of the best control pitchers in the league. She consistently throws strikes off the corners of the plate, releasing the ball just before her arm touches the mound.
“I try to get as low as possible,” she said. “If you bounce it too much, kickers won’t swing.”
Winning pitchers communicate with their defense constantly and always remain vigilant of runners on base and offensive players’s kicking tendencies — even when opponents try to psyche them out.
Milk Believe rookie pitcher Abi “New Girl” Bock, who is 4–0 this year, has regularly battled hecklers trying to take her off her game.
“People from the other team sometimes tell me I’m a bad pitcher — it’s mean,” said the roller, who mixes a repertoire of change-ups and junk pitches that lead to playable ground balls. “I try to go right over the plate and not make it too bouncy, but if you throw a bad pitch it’s bad for the other team.”
Male pitchers have come to respect female pitchers — at least more than they respect their rivals at the plate — because well-placed curveballs have a way of rolling over gender lines.
“One of the most beautiful feelings I have had in my life is striking out a grown man in kickball,” said male Pirates reliever Zach “Mariano” Shopsin, who often closes games for his team’s female hurlers.
Just for kicks
Milk Believe 10, American Blood 8
Milk Believe 6, Salute Your Jorts 2
Salute Your Jorts 11, Hot Mess 1
American Blood 5, Perfect Strangers 2
John Cougar Mellencamps 9, Dead Rabbits 0
John Cougar Mellencamps 6, Pony Boys 0
Pony Boys 6, Dead Rabbits 2
Mathletes 10, Perfect Strangers 0
Mathletes 10, Hot Mess 0
Pirates 6, Recession Aggression 0
Reach reporter Aaron Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-2547.