pet

Porthos, a boxer, looks lovingly at the camera as he sits by the sidelines during 4-Legged Friends Week at Swamp Sports on Thursday. Dogs were the theme for the third week of Swamp Sports Kickball. Read the story on pg. 8.

Lawson Nuland / Alligator Staff

Junior didn’t exactly meet the four-legged qualifications, but it didn’t stop him from cheering on his favorite kickball player Thursday night.

While Heather Harris, 24, ran the field with her kickball team, her three-legged chiweenie, Junior, barked from the sidelines.

Although he was an enthusiastic cheerleader, Harris wasn’t sure Junior would be a kickball regular.

“I don’t know if there will be a next time, maybe if he’s better,” she said.

Junior, along with about 10 other dogs, joined their owners for Swamp Sports’ third week of the kickball season at the T.B. McPherson Center, located at 1717 SW 15th St. Eight teams battled against each other in a series of games that began at 7:15 p.m. The theme, Four-legged Friends week, was meant to encourage players and spectators to bring theirs dogs to the game, said Michael Paulter, the owner of Swamp Sports.

“It’s just a good chance for people to not keep their pets locked up in the house,” he said.  “Let’s celebrate all of our four-legged friends.”

Swamp Sports, formerly known as Mad K Sports, is an adult co-ed sports league that began in 2015. It hosts kickball, dodgeball and occasional cornhole tournaments. Partnering with Florida Fun Bikes and Mother’s Pub & Grill, Swamp Sports’ mission is to provide a healthy outlet for adults in Gainesville to meet new people and stay active.

Paulter plans a new theme for each week of the season. Players have dressed up for themes like superheroes and the ’90s and ran around in onesies one week, Paulter said. Afterward, the teams pack up and head to Mother’s Pub & Grill for a post-game beer and burger.

“We’re not making ESPN, nobody’s signing contracts,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and be social and not just like cut-throat competition.”

Esaa Samarah said the league is a great place to meet people, but he’s still getting the hang of the sport.

“I realized last time that I didn’t know where (the bases) were, and I ran the wrong direction,” the 24-year-old said.

Despite not being an all-star kickball player, Samarah said it’s the dogs that keep him coming back. Although the theme was dogs this week, some of the players always bring their pets, he said.

“If I’m being honest, I mostly come for the dogs,” he said. “Then I often get in trouble because I don’t pay attention to the games."

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