Local sports organization rolls out first pitch
Alex Owens | Downtown News
You may not know the name Keith Cunningham, but he rolled into baseball history at Petco Park recently, when he threw out the opening pitch before the Padres played the Cubs on Aug. 25.
Actually, he didn’t throw the ball out – he rolled it – and it wasn’t the traditional baseball, it was a red kickball.
His effort is believed to be the first time a ceremonial opening pitch was made using a ball other than the baseball.
“We looked it up everywhere we could,” Cunningham said before he made history. “We couldn’t find any other time it’s been done.”
The history-making kickball roll lasted only three seconds, but it took years for it to come to fruition, according to Cunningham, vice president of events at VAVi Sports & Social Club, a San Diego-based business. “We’ve been trying to get the Padres to do this for three years,” Cunningham said. “There have been a lot of changes in the front office that we had to deal with, but we finally made it happen.”
Missed history in the making?
Here’s a recap: Cunningham was at the pitcher’s mound, ball in hand, and rolled it straight to home plate where the Swinging Friar kicked it in the air. Cunningham caught it and ran towards the Friar with joy. Both jumped in the air and bumped their chests together in true bro fashion.
“We didn’t plan that,” Cunningham confessed. “They wouldn’t let me talk to the Friar beforehand so what you saw was spontaneous.”
VAVi organizes all sorts of adult sports leagues and events around San Diego County, including 75 separate kickball leagues, with one in North Park and another in Old Town.
As fun as the history-making experience at Petco was for Cunningham, he believes the first roll made a statement about the future of kickball, a game that, for years, was mainly played in schoolyards.
In recent years, it’s become popular with adults and Cunningham believes his Padres pitch sent the message that kickball is here to stay.
“Kickball is a popular social sport because you don’t need any skill,” he said. “You can be uncoordinated and still be a star. You can bunt the ball and still make it to the base. The way I see it, baseball is America’s past time, but when it comes to coed social sports, kickball is the new favorite past time.”
Cunningham and his colleagues at VAVi Sport & Social Club have a goal of their own: to remind adults what it’s like to get out and play.
“It’s been proven: adults enjoy tapping into their youth by playing sports like kickball and dodgeball, or participating in runs with some added fun and excitement,” Cunningham said in a recent press release. “With [VAVi], we’ve started a movement to put social sports on the map. We’re helping adults balance their time between work and play [and] social sports seem to be one of the best ways to do so.”
VAVi is affiliated with the Sport & Social Industry Association (SSIA.us) a network of more than 55 sport and social clubs for men and women ages 21 – 40 across the nation. To learn more about VAVi Sport & Social Club, visitgovavi.com.
Alex Owens is a San Diego based freelance writer.