You better get your fill of baseball now, while it's still the national pastime. 'Cause if Bob Alman has his way -- and he's so persistent, passionate, and charismatic, there's a good chance he will -- we'll all be taking each other out to a different kind of ball game pretty soon. Alman started playing croquet as a youngster but could never beat his dear old grandma. "This kind of thing scars you for life," he says. He played intermittently before moving to San Francisco in the 1970s, where he and his friends -- whom he describes as "intellectual outlaws" -- invented guerrilla croquet. "We would dress in white and go to places we didn't belong," Alman says. "We climbed the walls of the Spreckles Mansion in broad daylight. We played on a military base." Because of their outfits, they "looked authoritative" and rarely got booted from the property. "We went to Hewlett-Packard headquarters, and the security guard bought us lemonade. We played at the governor's mansion in Sacramento." Besides having convinced the City of San Francisco to build the country's first public croquet lawns, Alman was instrumental in lobbying for the establishment of the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach, where he now works as a consultant. Recently, Alman has been promoting more variations on croquet, including Toequet (in which you ditch the mallets and kick oversize balls through giant wickets) and Extreme MalletBall (in which Toequet's oversized balls are used but mallets are reintroduced). He's taking these sports to recreation leaders around the region; and soon, the state; and not long afterward, to a baseball diamond near you.

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