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It's just another Friday-night ... dodgeball game?

It's 8 p.m. on a Friday night at Christ Presbyterian Church. The front lights are dark. No one is worshiping at this hour.

But there is activity in the church. Head to the back of the building, walk up the stairs and enter; go down the hall and turn. Ahead, you will see the bright lights of the gymnasium. And in that shiny, hot room, your soul might just get saved.

I'm not talking religious conversion. I'm talking about taking a squishy red ball in your hands, raising it and throwing it as fast and hard as you can. And when you hit your target—a person on the opposing team—you feel like shouting, "Hallelujah!" A divine satisfaction washes over you.

I'm talking dodgeball.

Dodgeball is that game you probably played in gym class. You threw balls at your classmates in the hopes of hitting them. Your memory may be that the game was fun—or that it was horrifying. But that doesn't matter now. Past sins or memories can be absolved at Christ Presbyterian Church every Friday night.

Logan Tobia, 26, started this weekly dodgeball game 4 1/2 years ago. He continues to organize it through the Tucson Dodgeball Meetup Group.

"I don't drink and don't do drugs," he explains. "I'm the oldest of five. I thought it would be good to start (the game) to keep kids out of that."

Logan says that they have played at various campuses and parks around town. The maximum number of players has been 120. Now turnout ranges from 35 to 82. The fee is $2.

I ask Logan to explain what dodgeball is. His quick reply: "The best game ever." Logan has both a love and skill for dodgeball. He played professionally for a year and has been to the national championships.

While the Friday-night game is not as intense as the nationals, there are various rules and regulations that are taken seriously. Still, Logan says it's a lighthearted game. "You don't have to be too athletic to play dodgeball. ... It's not as violent as everyone assumes. They think it's a blood-thirsty game where the objective is to destroy the other person. It's not. ... As you get older, it's more camaraderie than competitiveness."

Camaraderie is the name of the game on Friday nights. Logan says people have formed friendships here. "It's such a motley crew. (You see) people there you'd never expect, people from all walks of life."

As I enter the gym, I'm greeted by Logan's brother Dylan, and Mason Shank. Dylan tells me he's been playing for six years.

"It's a really fun thing to play," he says. "Just jump in. The whole environment is good. Everyone is different. There have been heavy-metal people, jocks. ... They show up and have fun."

As we're talking, Kenda Fourmy, 44, and Steve Montano, 48, introduce themselves. It's their first time here, and they haven't played since childhood.

Steve says his strategy is to not get hit. "I haven't played since I was 8. It was fun; it was easy. It didn't require thinking, just a primal instinct to survive."

Steve and Kenda try to get me to play, but I say I would be terrible and that I have bad dodgeball memories.

Kenda interrupts my trip down memory lane with humor. "Doesn't everyone have bad memories of dodgeball? I want to confront the memories and demolish them!" She continues to smile and says, "We clearly think it's fun. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here."

Later, Kenda introduces me to Brittany Young, 22, who's been playing for five years and has also gone to the nationals. She encourages other women to play, saying it's a fun, high-energy game.

Players divide into two teams, with each side lining up against the wall, facing each other. Music plays in the background. Dylan shouts, "Ready, set, go!" Balls start flying.

I watch Steve and Kenda to see how they do. Both play well and have smiles on their faces. Steve enjoys it and says he's considering bringing his kids next week. Kenda says it's fun and what she expected.

"For 30 years of not playing, it feels like it used to," she says, affirming that she'll come back the next week. "I am not defeated," she adds with a smile.

I leave the gym long before the 1:30 a.m. end time. My mood is brighter now. And as red balls fly and the players smile, their souls get a little lighter, too.

For more information, visit www.meetup.com/The-Tucson-Dodgeball-Meetup-Group.

More by Irene Messina

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