Early last Monday evening, the Hemenway Playground was abuzz with activity. On a day when the afternoon temps had reached the low 90s, and the yearâ€™s first heat wave was in its first day, the Hemey was teeming with locals out for an eveningâ€™s workout.
At the kids play area, the young ones clambored over the slide and jungle gym, and parents gave gentle pushes to their children on the swings.
On the softball diamond, a squad of assistant DAs took batting practice as they prepared to play a few innings under the towering field lights that help to make this park one of the neighborhoodâ€™s favorite evening locations.
And at one side of the Adams Street field, on the blacktop basketball court, a large group of young women had gathered for their Monday night summer ritual: Itâ€™s the Councillor Maureen Feeney Womenâ€™s Basketball League, now in its sixth season of providing full court workouts on hot summer nights.
Like many neighborhood women, league organizer Lauren Smyth had grown up playing basketball, first in the Boston Neighborhood Basketball league (BNBL), and on her high school team at Latin School, and in college and in an intramural league at UMass Amherst. But after her teen years, she found there were no organized basketball activities for women.
â€œThere wasnâ€™t anywhere for us to play,â€ Smyth said. â€œSo once BNBL was over,what are you going to do? There was nothing in the summer.â€
Six years ago, Smith says she went looking for assistance, and found it from District Councillor Feeney. â€œThereâ€™s a league in Brighton, and a womenâ€™s league in Southie. We went to Maureen and I said, â€˜Help me start a womanâ€™s basketball league (in Dorchester).â€™ We started up at the Prairie, across from 1010 Mass Ave.â€
Today, there are some 70 women â€“ many 20-somethings but some older â€“ who come down to the Hemey to compete in four games each Monday night: â€œI have Mondays and Wednesdays here â€“ Wednesday is the rain day,â€ Smyth says. During the season the games begin each hour, from 6 to 9 p.m. Each team wears its own colors, and each has a unique name: There are the Blue Bombshells, Purple Laker Girls, Light Blue Trail Blazers, Orange Crush. Amyâ€™s Green Army, Charcoal Gray Steelers and Maroon Minute Women. One team, Hughâ€™s Killer Bees, bears the names of its coach, a man whose day job finds him driving Police Commissioner Ed Davis.
The players typically played roundball in high school and in college, and much of the leagueâ€™s costs are underwritten by sponsor Feeney, joined by other electeds, including Councillors Stephen Murphy, John Connolly, and Bill Linehan, State Reps. Martin Walsh and Linda Dorcena Forry, and by Mt. Washington Bank and the Blarney Stone restaurant.
â€œI try to keep it to $40 a girl. You pay before you play, the $40 up front and I take care of the rest,â€ Smyth says. The games are highly competitive, with typical scores ranging from highs of the 60â€™s to lows of the 40â€™s.
Is dunking allowed? â€œIf any girl could dunk that would be amazing and Iâ€™d love to have it,â€ Smyth says. â€œBut not yet.â€
She adds this caution: â€œWe have to be careful about dunking now because Mayor Menino got us glass backboards.â€
The players seem to enjoy the late-day games, and playing after dark, outdoors and not in a gym. â€œWe need the lights. We wanted it outside â€“ old school, you know.â€
Now as the days grow shorter, league play begins to wind down. Playoffs begin next Monday night, with two games, at 7 and 8 p.m. The championship game is set for Monday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.
The email address for the league is email@example.com