Stepping up to the orange, spray-painted home plate, carrying a 60-pound coal-colored compound bow, the “batter” contemplates whether to shoot for a single or triple.
The one-acre field, which has taken the shape of a baseball diamond, yields 10 targets in the form of boars, bears and other hunting game.
Each target represents a different baseball play.
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The sharpshooter draws the heavy string back until the back and forward sights line up to his eye. He aims between the red, yellow and green tabs on the front sight before attempting to bring his teammate in from third base with a pull of the trigger.
The arrow hits its target, 15 yards out at the first base mark, in the dead center to score a run for the squad.
A spotter with a tripod-set of binoculars confirms it hit the bull’s-eye, and the run is in the books as the crowd howls at the shot.
This is BaseBow — a new sport that’s taking Jackson County by storm.
In 2011, Damon Marling, pastor at United Christian Church in Uniontown, came up with an idea to unite archers on one playing field.
“We’ve been doing a shootout once a year during the summertime, a walk-through bow shoot,” Marling said. “Usually, two guys go through at a time and shoot. My buddies would come and say, ‘I didn’t see you’ because they went during a different time. I thought, ‘I need to get something where everyone can shoot together.’ That’s how it all got together.”
When the group started playing the game in Uniontown, it was only six players.
This past weekend, 30 archers, ranging from beginner to professional, took the field.
“I would recommend this to anyone who loves the sport of archery,” Brandon Riley said during the shoot. “It’s all different levels out here. Anyone who loves the sport is welcome to play.”
The game, which has been played behind United Christian Church since its inception, combines elements of baseball and archery.
On the playing field, 10 targets, ranging from 15 to 45 yards, are set in typical baseball positions. The closer the target, the smaller the play.
A home run is set the furthest way, in an outfield spot.
When the offensive player gets up, he can shoot any target. They have two arrows and need to hit a bull’s-eye or they’re out.
Following an offensive hit, a defensive player steps up with one shot to attempt an out.
While the game is currently just played behind United Christian, the long-term goal for BaseBow is to create a league that competes at various locations.
“We had so many teams wanting to play (this past Sunday) that it started at 1:30 p.m.,” Marling said. “The games usually last about an hour-and-a-half. We are doing hour-and-a-half slots. Our last game goes around 4:30.”
So far, the sport has caught on by word-of-mouth.
“I would like for other people to start taking it on and expanding,” Marling said. “I have the scorebooks and can give them out to play in other locations if we get big enough.”
Cliff Rice, owner of High Performance Archery in Austin, played for the second time this past Sunday.
“They brought me over, and we had a blast,” Rice said. “I thought it was a really neat thing. I’ve been shooting archery for almost 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s something new and exciting. I’ve shot competitive archery, and this kind of combines several aspects of the different types of competition.
“We’ve got everyone from beginning to pro archers. They’re all here having a good time.”
Right now, there’s no fee to play BaseBow.
However, with the sport’s gaining popularity, that might soon change.
“If it continues to grow, we will have to start playing on different days during the evenings,” Marling said. “Right now, we haven’t charged anything to play. We’re just doing it for the fun of it. As it continues to grow, we will have to replace our targets and things we might have to charge.”
Many of the archers who turn out for the game also hunt.
This year, the league started in the spring rather than fall.
“We just started playing this spring, but normally, we play in the fall right before hunting season,” Marling said. “It’s really competitive and gets everyone in tune to hunt.”
Not everyone who plays BaseBow hunts. Some only target shoot.
While the sport only features compound bows right now, the group is open to using different equipment as long as the playing field is even.
If this new sport entices you, feel free to step up to the plate.
Where: United Christian Church, Uniontown
When: Sunday afternoons
Who: Any age
What to bring: Compound bow, arrows
Contact: If you would like to join or try BaseBow, call Damon Marling at 812-569-4638. Any individuals or teams welcome.