Kickball — sometimes called soccer baseball or football rounders — is a game typically played by school kids. It’s like baseball, only instead of hitting a small hardball with a bat, you kick a much larger rubber ball with your feet. Oh, and the pitcher typically rolls the ball toward the “batter” (for lack of a better word) instead of hurling it toward a predefined strike zone. As a result, it’s a lot easier for the batter to make contact, so it’s a lot more fun for little kids. Further, you don’t need a bat or gloves, so it’s also a more accessible sport for schools and playgrounds and the like. Again, it’s a good game for kids.
That doesn’t mean adults can’t play kickball — we, too, have feet and can typically kick a large-ish ball and run bases. But if the ridiculousness out of a small town in South Carolina is any indicator, maybe we shouldn’t. We’re just not mature enough to play a kids’ game.
Moncks Corner, South Carolina, is that small town. As of 2019, an estimated 11,000 people live there. The town has an interesting-looking athletics facility to support the community, as seen below. (That’s a screenshot from the town’s website; sorry about the watermark, but I can’t get around it.) There are tennis courts, a soccer field with some bleachers, and of particular interest for today’s story, a quartet of baseball diamonds arranged in a clover-like formation.
On August 6, 2019, those baseball diamonds were the scene of a crime — maybe. Okay, not really. The New York Times (which typically doesn’t report on sports a lot, let alone on exurban South Carolina kickball games) sets up the story:
The home team, trailing 5-1 in a recreational league kickball game for adults, had put runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
There was a bang-bang play at the plate: Out was the call.
So, to recap: a recreational game, not the World Series. A team down 5-1 late in the game, so hardly a close matchup. A play at the plate that probably could have gone either way. You can, kind of, see why the home team would be somewhat upset, sure, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal, right?
Well, maybe it was. Graylnn Moran, the umpire, was about to get an earful — something he didn’t bargain for, given the $25 per game salary the town paid him to ump rec games. The runner he had called out at the plate was Andrew Lockliear, the son of the town’s mayor. And the mayor himself, Michael Lockliear, was also playing in the evening’s game — and he, again allegedly, wasn’t a fan of Moran’s out call. Moran claimed that the elder Lockliear screamed “are you stupid?” and said that Moran shouldn’t be getting paid $25 for the game; rather “you should be paying us $25” per GQ. (Yes, GQ covered a small town kickball game, too.) Moran retorted by saying that as a player for the Moncks Corner team, the mayor was representing the town in front of the visiting team, but the mayor allegedly didn’t care. Instead, allegedly, he yelled back “I own this town!” and telling Moran that he “won’t be back out here [on the field]” in the future.
And two days later, that seemed to come true. Two days later, Moran’s boss at the rec center told him that his services as an umpire were no longer needed.
Moran, believing Lockilear had overreacted, decided to do similarly: he decided to get the courts and the state government involved.
First, Moran filed a lawsuit against Lockilear for “slander, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with a contract,” according to NBC News. And second, he tried to get the mayor similarly removed from his job. According to The State, Moran’s attorney wrote a two-page letter to the governor and state attorney general claiming that Lockilear’s efforts to get Moran fired were an abuse of power: “[the letter] noted that South Carolina law allows the governor to remove a public official from office for committing a ‘crime of moral turpitude’ — regardless of whether their conduct is illegal.”
Ultimately, it’s unlikely anything will come of this, though. In October, the town’s recreation department told Moran that while he couldn’t umpire for the rest of the current season (which was probably over anyway), he was welcome to come back for future seasons. And the state attorney general’s office told him that they weren’t going to take his case — it was a matter for local authorities.
From the Archives: Extreme Tag: More adults playing kids’ games.