Pick-Up Games, Decoded: Where to Play Soccer, Basketball and Softball Around Town
Ready to play ball? Hit the field, court, or pitch, and see who shows up for a friendly game.
When: Saturday morning
Calling all: Beginners to pros
Molly’s Soccer Group meets at West Sunset Fields every Saturday at 10:45 a.m. to play on the grassy outdoor full- or half-pitches. Expect 11-on-11 games—sometimes smaller side games if there’s a surplus of players. There are a lot of regulars, and they welcome newbies. It’s free, and everyone brings their own equipment and snacks. 2100 39th Ave.
When: Afternoons and evenings
Calling all: Intermediates and hotshots
When it was an empty dirt lot, Garfield Square was known as “el parque donde te rompes el pie,” or “the park where you break your foot.” Now that there’s artificial turf and permanent goals, the field almost always has a game going, even after dark when the lights come on. It’s a mixed group that includes students, 9-to-5ers on their lunch breaks, guys from the neighborhood, and day laborers. 3100 26th St., 415-831-5510.
When: Weekend afternoons and lunchtime on Tuesday and Thursday
Calling all: Working stiffs on a break
Tucked between Teatro ZinZanni and an asphalt parking lot is Telegraph Field’s lit and turf-covered pitch. A $20 annual ID card grants you access from San Francisco Soccer to play. The field is also available for rent: $65 an hour, day or night. Pickup games are held every Tuesday and Thursday at noon and during late afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. Pier 27, 415-640-0021.
When: Thursday night and Friday at noon
Calling all: Slam-dunkers
Most SF b-ball takes place inside on shiny court floors. At the Jewish Community Center, more than two dozen show up for a Thursday 6:30 p.m. scrimmage that keeps no score. A smaller crowd comes for a more competitive pickup game on Friday at noon. There are several other games throughout the week, so it’s best to call ahead. Entry is free for members; $12 day pass if accompanied by a member; $24 for all others. 3200 California St., 415-292-1200.
When: All day Thursday–Monday
Calling all: Competitive b-ballers
Mornings, afternoons, and nearly every evening except Tuesday and Wednesday, you’ll find full makeshift teams battling it out in short, 10-minute games on the YMCA gym’s single indoor court. And there’s always a small audience watching the action. It's free to members, and day passes cost $15. 169 Steuart St., 415-957-9622.
When: All day Tuesday–Saturday
Calling all: Outdoor diehards
If asphalt is more your thing, the Upper Noe Valley Recreation Center’s outdoor court is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Pickups are usually in the early afternoon on Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Or swing by after work when the lights come on. 295 Day St., 415-970-8061.
When: Saturday morning
Calling all: Glove owners
The San Francisco Pickup Softball Network throws the first pitch at Balboa Park’s grass field every Saturday at 10 a.m. It’s usually a mixed group of players—some have never picked up a bat, and others are no stranger to rounding the bases. It’s free, and teams, which aim for 7–11 players, are picked at random from a pile of everyone’s gloves. Ocean and San Jose avenues.
When: Taking reservations
Calling all: Team captains
Even if you strike out at Christopher Playground, you at least get a nice view of Glen Canyon Park. The field includes a well-kept diamond, plenty of parking, and nearby snacks to fuel hungry teams. The pickup games are a little sporadic (it’s SF Pickup Softball Network’s backup field), so if you want to play at a particular time and see who shows up, go in person to the parks department at the Pioneer Log Cabin in Golden Gate Park to reserve the space at least 10 days prior. Reservations range from a flat fee of $25 to $65 per hour. 5290 Diamond Heights Blvd., 415-831-5510.
When: Weekend afternoons and Tuesday and Thursday night
Calling all: Ex-Little Leaguers to all-star wannabes
The five softball fields at Crocker Amazon Playground are home to pickup games from 3 to 5 p.m. on the weekend. Thanks to some lights on one diamond, you can catch a game at night on Tuesday and Thursday. 1485 Geneva Ave., 415-831-5510.
*Published in the April issue of 7x7 Magazine