Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Backyard Game Taken Way Too Far

Fifty years ago, a father named David N. Mullaney created a game for his sons. Unable to play baseball in the backyard due to fly ball threats to siding, windows, and their mother hanging laundry, their father began to experiment with a plastic version of the baseball and bat. Soon after, he and his sons were smashing line drive home runs safely across the property and pitching some of the most wicked curve balls ever seen. As they swung and wiffed, they named the game Wiffle Ball. Their mother was also free to work in the yard again without fearing for her own safety from flying base or tennis balls.

Today, this iconic American game is a sport. Leagues and tournaments are gearing up for opening day of Wiffle season. Some of America's best are flocking to New York for some of the strongest competition and biggest tournament prizes. Tournament providers like Big League Wiffle Ball and Goldenstick Wiffle League provide the venue for some of the finest Wiffle action in the country. Players tap into Mullaney's genius and defy the laws of physics with their pitching. They relish their unique pocket of the American sports world with an unparalleled pleasure and ferocity.

The New York Regional Manager for the Goldenstick Wiffle League is Rob “Wiffman” Piervinanzi. This league's motto is “a backyard game taken way too far.” Complete with a 21 game season, each franchise has an owner who picks a team through a free agent system. Each player is rated on a point system which is equalized to provide solid competition.

Piervinanzi has been playing Wiffle since 2003. He found himself captivated by “the thrill of playing something so simple at such a high level of competition.” Lou Levesque, the President of Goldenstick Wiffle League, noticed Piervinanzi's enthusiasm for Wiffle and soon recruited him into the New York Regional Manager position.

Piervinanzi is notorious at the plate or on the pitcher's mound. His favorite pitch is the drop-curve, learned from his newest teammate named Matty Griffin. “I usually stick with my slider, riser, screwball, drop, change, and mix-in the drop-curve.” He has pitched 80% of every game he's played and averaged over 130 innings for 6 straight years. He noticed a decrease in the durability of his arm at age 24. To ensure top performance, he united with two of the top five pitchers in the country named Ryan O'Shea and Matty Griffin, as well as one of the top ten hitters in the nation named Troy Parks to create a team called Remember The Name. Officially sponsored by Riser, Piervinanzi's skills are money.

“Wiffman” travels nearly every weekend of the Wiffle Ball season which is generally May through September. Nick Benas and Jared Verrillo, co-creators of Big League Wiffle Ball, “love having Wiffman at our tournaments.” Benas calls him the Dennis Rodman of Wiffle. “I love his energy. He's always fired up, yelling chatter and propaganda. He has great command of hitting and pitching.” Piervinanzi enjoys the Big League Wiffle Ball format which requires the use of the iconic yellow bat and is open to all takers. “It's use of backyard rules and the yellow bat make it fun.”

For less than ten dollars, Buffalonians can find themselves handling their own yellow bat and attempting to master the white plastic ball with eight mysterious holes on one side. They can join teams like the Western and Central New York Heroes whose home field is “anywhere on any day with good weather” or Free Agents with nicknames like Mickey, Pops, The Irish Saint, Tay, Casillo, Jimbo, JS, Larman, and Rizzo. Teams like the Indians, Piwakawaka Kokakos, AC's Posse, and NWBL are already swatting wiffle balls into their neighbor's backyards in Rochester. Come tournament time, they just might find Wiffman winding up and attempting to slice drop curves into their strike zone. This American staple which was once just a child's game is officially going pro.

article from Sports Leisure Magazine

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