The Brooklyn Kickball League will crown a new champion this year after last year’s title-winners disbanded — putting the game on the brink of what could be its greatest transition since the advent of the rubber ball.
The purple players who took the field last summer as Never Scared swept the dynastic John Cougar Mellencamps and promptly retired, leaving the league riddled with uncertainty as North Brooklyn’s boys and girls of summer prepare for the season’s May 6 kickoff.
Never Scared isn’t the only club to call it quits. Gone, too, are a number of other McCarren Park stalwarts, including Brooklyn United, Dolls Kicking Balls, Diddy’s White Party, and Ramrod, whose star kickers have signed up with other squads.
The demise of these storied kickball clubs has opened the door — perhaps, just a bit — for a handful of experienced teams and a few eager newcomers that want nothing more than to stake their claim on the 2012 Chuck D trophy at Greenpoint’s dusty fields.
Longtime observers are putting money on the Mathletes, who tackled a tough schedule and an injury-plagued season last year until the Pony Boys knocked them out of the round robin playoffs.
But this year, many insiders say the Mathletes have solved their problems. The team returns with captain Kiley “Algebra” Edgley and a slew of wily kickers who also defend well.
Other veteran teams that have faltered in past playoffs — including the plaid-clad New Frontiersmen, the scrappy Pony Boys, and the spirited People’s Court — are also in the hunt for a first-round bye.
And despite the critics who say the two-time champion Mellencamps are in a rebuilding year, the team claims it has merely reloaded, signing Brooklyn United’s Justin “Anarchy” Taylor and adding a few rookies of its own — enough new talent to put it in the league’s upper echelon, according to Andrew “W.B.” Yates
“I’d be surprised if this is a competitive season,” Yates said. “There may only be four or five good teams. The rest are mediocre.”
But even the most casual fan of kickball knows that newcomers should never be overlooked.
No rookie squad has received as much buzz as Milk Believe, a team of former college athletes led by MVP-hopefuls Mike “Big Baby” Scott in the outfield and Priest “Marathon” Fontaine on third base.
“Without a doubt we’re definitely a dark horse favorite to win it all,” said Scott, a former Mellencamp who is nothing if not self-confident. “I think the Mellencamps are going to be really bad. It’s bad when you can’t keep your best players.”
Other new teams, including Last Licks and Perfect Strangers, were tempering their expectations and spent the preseason focused on fundamentals.
“We’re trying to learn the game,” said Last Licks’s Matt “Lucky Licks” Pozaroski. “Most of us have never played before.”
Scott’s teammate Ariella “Hasn’t Signed On Just Yet” Schwerd will rely heavily on the skills she acquired 20 years ago during recess — and she thinks that should be enough.
“There’s no school you go to learn kickball, except elementary school,” she said. “And if you told your teacher you wanted to be a Williamsburg kickball champion when you grew up, you’d probably get tested for something.”
Reach reporter Aaron Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-2547.