By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
While “The Hamptons” hummed toward August this week and trendsetters scrambled for that precious last case of Wolffer rose, a crew of longtime, and mostly lifetime, locals were having some fun of their own at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.
The Hamptons Kickball League wrapped up its inaugural season on Monday as Thunder Thighs knocked off Country Bumpkins, 11-8, to take home the freshly-minted MindBody championship trophy.
Thunder Thighs, you ask? Country Bumpkins?
For the moment, kickball has replaced softball in Sag Harbor and muscle-fueled long balls from the days of Immaculate Pools, T.S. Mott and Sag Harbor Liquors have transitioned to bouncy ground balls and soft pop flies to shallow center field. Sponsors are following suit in this league as well, with All-In Swimming Pools sponsoring the Country Bumpkins this summer and the Montauk Brewing Company apparently considering a sponsorship of Thunder Thighs moving forward (everyone likes a winner, after all).
In stating the obvious before Monday’s game that times are a changin’ in Sag Harbor, an onlooker pointed out the family atmosphere in the park that night and stands filled with smiling faces, as they have been every Monday night this summer. This was far from a scene of locals gone sour during these dog days of summer.
Trailing early in the championship game on Monday, the Bumpkins turned to trumpeter Anna Strong in the dugout for the theme song from “Rocky.” Feeling inspired as a result, the Bumpkins cut the deficit in half over the next few innings before ultimately falling short in their rally against the league’s top-ranked team with the appropriate nickname.
“It was a good night,” said Eric Bramoff, the league organizer whose team, La Superica, lost to Country Bumpkins in a dramatic come-from-behind semifinal on July 20. “It was a little more tense than usual tonight because there was something to play for.”
The Thunder Thighs’ winning roster included Garrett Lowe, Kayt Gray, Brian Murphy, Nylinh and Myhoa Nguyen, Sebastian Stryker, Kyle Gromel, Sarina Peddy, Hannah Thomas, John Romero, Andy Gonzalez, Andy Leiweke, Amanda Vero and Zack Goldberg.
As the game ended and the Thunder Thighs celebrated their title, children poured onto the field and played a little kickball themselves. The league is co-ed, so men and women compete side-by-side, which is probably the biggest departure from the now defunct fast-pitch softball league that was played in the park for decades before folding last summer.
Did the softball league fail to attract enough participation because Sag Harbor’s blue collar community is fading in the shadow of luxury condominiums and a wealthier set of village residents? Or is just that the local family dynamic has changed and so has the demand for more family-friendly games like kickball to fill these hot summer nights?
Whatever the answers are, and regardless of the future of softball in Sag Harbor, Bramoff and other organizers of the Hamptons Kickball League should be commended for their accomplishment in launching the league, which is now a non-profit organization that will begin a second session on Monday intended to run into the fall months. Bramoff was quick to thank the Mashashimuet Park Board following Monday’s game, as well as Jeff Robinson, who maintains the fields, and said he expects the league to “hit the ground running next year” with even more than the six teams that competed this year. Thunder on Hamptons Kickball League.