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Intramural Softball and Kickball played side-by-side for second year

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Mercer students practice for intramural softball.

Mercer students practice for intramural softball.

Marianna Bacallao

Marianna Bacallao

Mercer students practice for intramural softball.

Avery Braxton, Staff Writer

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With the arrival of spring comes the beginning of intramural softball season. The sport has become a mainstay of the spring semester when it comes to intramural play alongside 5v5 basketball, which had its championship game March 14.

Softball will have another base-running sport alongside it this year, kickball — and concerns are that the playground sport could detract from softball’s established popularity. Kickball is being offered for the second year in a row, but Michael Castaneda, assistant director of recreational sports and wellness at Mercer, said there is nothing to worry about.

“We have 27 teams. We have 10 in the co-rec division, 15 men’s and two women’s.” Castaneda said. “It’s actually an increase by I think about 3 teams from last year.”

Castaneda believes that the two sports can work hand-in-hand with each other and so far he is right. Kickball fielded 20 teams and 266 participants this year; that’s three more teams than they had in their inaugural season. Softball saw an increase as well.

Castaneda and the recreational sports and wellness department, which oversees intramurals, have designed the system to accommodate both sports. They created a tier system that allows for what they call “major sports” to take precedence, while other sports are classified mid-major or minor and operate on a different schedule system.

“Our major sports which are usually our more popular sports are [7 vs. 7] soccer, flag football, [5 vs. 5] basketball, volleyball and soccer and kickball,” Castaneda said.

A breakdown of the 2016-2017 year shows flag football garnering the most participation at 49 teams (618 participants) followed closely by 5 vs. 5 basketball (46 teams, 443 participants), 7 vs. 7 soccer (33 teams, 423 participants), softball (27 teams, 317 participants) and volleyball (33 teams, 413 participants).

Castaneda said other sports like Spikeball, KanJam and Battleship act more as “fan favorites” and are only played at the beginning of the year. While it is popular, kickball is considered a “mid-major” sport and is in the same category as Spikeball, ultimate frisbee, and a few others in order to work alongside softball for scheduling.

Recreational sports and wellness recognizes the obvious issues when it comes to spring semester sports: time and space.

Castaneda and crew have gotten creative when it comes to making participation possible for everybody. It was easier prior to the construction of the new corridor on Mercer University Drive before Lofts Phase V.

Softball is played on Orange Field, past the soccer team’s Bear Field, while Black Field is split in two to occupy Kickball. Softball, being in the major sports category, is split up by divisions which are split up into specific time slots. Kickball, however, is scheduled according to when team captains say their teams are most readily available.

“We try to make it work where all our students can participate in both,” Castaneda said. “What (students will) do is sign up their softball teams first and see what day they’re gonna play, and then when they sign up for kickball they know they don’t want to play at that same time so they’ll block those times off.”

The IMLeagues system that Mercer uses recognizes where the potential conflicts will arise and automatically adjusts to allow teams to play both sports. The marriage between major, mid-major and minor sports can sometimes create some tight time windows, but has worked well so far.

“I think it’s been great. I think the students have enjoyed the sport of kickball; it kind of brings that recess environment back from when they played in elementary, middle or maybe even high school,” Castaneda said. “Those are the type of events we try to make or create, because it’s something that makes it more fun. That’s what intramurals is all about.”

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Intramural Softball and Kickball played side-by-side for second year