Professional Wiffle Ball Captures the Attention of American Youth
By Mack Dryfuss (Spring 2009)
America is unique among nations because it is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants who came to a wild land and sought to construct an ideal society. Gleaning history of its successful and unsuccessful governmental processes, the minds of the great philosophers, and their own experiences, the Founding Fathers stripped government of pretense and an ability to oppress. They pursued checks of power. These wise men understood the character of man deeply, and created a government forced to walk hand in hand with its citizens while guaranteeing vital freedoms.
Built into this system is argument, confrontation, and an appeal to rationality. Built into this system is allowing poor character and poor ideas to fail. Effectiveness is achieved by holding leaders accountable with frequent elections and by possessing a population of educated and involved citizenry that collectively and continually reject a government that is ineffective. Representative democracy is one of the most unique and powerful concepts that has ever been embodied in government. This is evidenced by the effect of the United States of America upon the earth since its inception and the desire of the global population that longs, fights, and struggles to be a part of it.
Baseball has been called this nation’s past-time. Possibly America’s most loved sport, the essence of the game is infused in the heart and mind of America. It began with groups of people meeting in a field and initiating a game of “base.” The four bases were placed strategically and inhabited by the players: pitcher, catcher, fielders, batter, base-runners. Here the realities of life are orchestrated, between the foul lines. The American heart and mind are captured, entranced, and exhilarated by it because it simply and symmetrically mirrors their lives.
Sport is war without death. War is the basic situation of man. Sport elevates and unites us through the bitter sweat of failure, through the liberation of hard work, and the pay-off of success in a disciplined craft that accesses the mind, the body, the spirit, and the team.
America’s youth are tapping into this American game in a remarkable way. Testifying to the adaptability of the human spirit and the timelessness of the sport, baseball has taken on an unforeseen shape. The neighborhood no longer has mass amounts of children with free time enough to meet at the local ball diamond. Their parents are working two and three jobs. Their lives are busy with homework and handfuls of other extracurricular activities. In the aisles of the local department store while their parents cram errands between work, daycare, and dinner, they happen upon a wiffle ball and bat. They ask; their mother checks the price. She can spare the five dollars. It’s plastic. It’s not a threat to pediatric bones, windows, or siding. “Put it in the cart.” Or, they ask their father who, for a moment, is yanked out of the work stresses of personalities, paychecks, and projects. He handles the yellow bat which is light as air, but heavy with the childhood joy of first pitches, first base-hits, and first homeruns.
When they get home, they begin the challenge of figuring out how to pitch the plastic ball with holes in one side. It curves and sinks intensely. They pop on the family computer, google “wiffle,” and suddenly they become aware that this is no longer just a fleeting joy of childhood. It is the new face of American baseball. Meeting the need of intensely busy families and kids who can’t organize 17 others for a game, these players construct strike zones out of PVC pipe or simply chalk a square on a wall. All they need is one other kid, which they are usually able to find. Tournaments are organized, pitches are honed, stats are tallied on multiple websites. Videos are uploaded across the nation of the meanest pitches and longest homers which make the human mind marvel at what can be done with one plastic ball with eight holes on one side and a narrow yellow bat.
Like anything great; it is brilliantly simple. Nick Benas, co-creator of www.bigleaguewiffleball.com, says: “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s accessible to all. It opens the playing field to anyone who has five bucks, a buddy, and a little bit of space.” He started Big League Wiffle Ball with his childhood buddy named Jared Verrillo. They grew up a half hour away from The Wiffle Factory, smacking homeruns into their neighbors’ yards. Their childhood dream is becoming a reality. Having tournaments from the East Coast all the way to San Diego, Big League Wiffle Ball is taking the country by storm. Connecticut made wiffle ball one of their state games, and other states are joining the line-up.
This is what happens when citizens of a nation are afforded freedom. This is the brilliance of the Founding Fathers creation which allows eternal principles to overcome economic class, unfairness, and exclusiveness. Benas, a Marine who served a combat tour in Iraq, says with a relish that is reserved for one who knows his nation intimately through sacrifice: “This is the American dream. America is still a place where dreams can come true.” His message is confirmed by the expression on the face of his wiffle ball tournament customers every time they smack a line drive homerun or strike out a heavy hitter. These customers that don’t have million dollar salaries. They work down the block. They’re intense when it’s game time. They’re hungry. They’re serious. And they’re good. Real good. Whether it’s the legendary team named DOOM on the East Coast or DGA in the Chicago-land area, chances are that unless you’ve put in work, you will find yourself wiffing while they walk away with the tournament prize money.
Homeruns are no longer reserved for millionaire athletes. Baseball is back in the hands of the common man. It’s back via an invention created 50 years ago by a father for his children in Fairfield, Connecticut. While America’s baseball stars are holding press confessional press conferences about steroid use, American youth are taking baseball’s future into their own hands. They’re making it their own by swatting wiffle homerun balls with a narrow yellow bat.