By DAVID GREEN
New York City one weekend; Morenci, Mich., the next.
It’s just another venue in the world of the National Wiffle League Association (NWLA).
Due to the participation in wiffleball play by Morenci city administrator Michael Sessions, one of four NWLA regional tournaments is coming this weekend to Wakefield Park.
“The association was asking for applications for regional tournament sites so I put one together,” Sessions said, “and they liked it.”
One of his teammates is a member of the national committee and maybe that had some influence on the site selection choices. It doesn’t matter one way or the other to Sessions. He’s just delighted that the event is coming this way.
The game that kids play in the back yard with a plastic bat and ball is also a serious sport, with teams traveling great distances to compete.
Sessions said he’s generally in the Detroit area on summer weekends playing with his downriver league, Wiffle in Southeast Michigan. However, on some weekends they’re on the road getting in a game in another state.
Next weekend he will be in Chicago organizing a tournament for a festival.
Six teams will be in town for regional play on Saturday:
• Griffleball from Griffith, Ind.
• Greater Cincinnati Wiffleball League
• Huntington (W. Va.) Wiffleball League
• Kalamazoo Wiffleball League
• Leroy (Ind.) Wiffleball League
• Wiffle of Southeast Michigan.
Games are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m., preceded by a ceremonial pitch by Morenci mayor Jeff Bell.
How it’s played
Two fields will be set up on the Little League Kiwanis field. The established baselines on the field won’t be used. Instead, lines will be painted on the grass.
The wiffleball field is created by placing a mat on the grass to serve as the batter’s box and erecting a “strike board” behind home plate. The board serves as a catcher. If the ball hits the strike board, a strike is called.
Bases are pushed into the ground and base lines are marked out. The pitcher stands 45 feet from home plate.
There are only three defensive players in the field, including the pitcher. There are a pair of umpires, Sessions said, and they will make both good and bad calls, as usual.
A player is out with three strikes and on base with a walk after five balls miss the strike plate. The batting lineup features up to six players.
“We try to keep it as much like baseball as possible,” Sessions said, but there’s that major difference of a plastic bat and ball.
But don’t think pitches get lobbed to the plate like slow-pitch softball.
“There can be really fast pitches,” Sessions said.
Although Steve Farkas of Detroit will be present to serve as an umpire, audience members won’t have the opportunity to see the NWLA Pitcher of the Year fire 70 m.p.h. fastballs.
Miscellaneous rules include:
• six-inning games
• no bunting
• if hit by a pitch, the batter is awarded a ball
• no leading off; no stealing
• “ghost runners” are allowed if there are not enough base runners
• pegging a runner—throwing the ball and striking a runner off base—results in an out
• runners can advance at will after a missed pegging attempt, as long as the ball stays inside the field of play
• a five-gallon bucket of balls is allowed to be placed near the pitcher, but not in front of the pitcher.
The regional tournament will also feature a home run derby involving a representative from each of the six leagues participating.