The highly anticipated 2010 professional wiffle ball season is officially underway.
The premier national wiffle organizations of Golden Stick Wiffle League (GSWL) and Big League Wiffle Ball (BLWB) unleash their seasons this week. Professional players honed their skills in the off season in preparation for tournament play.
Lou Levesque, President of GSWL, is dead serious about the level of competition in his tournaments. “We’ve got guys pitching 80 mph drop curves with .350 batting averages. Only the best are going to make it to Vegas.” In Michael Hermann’s Ultimate Guide to Wiffle Ball, Levesque is credited to have “truly made wiffle go pro.”
The Golden Stick National Championship is scheduled for the first weekend in November. Regional champions from Golden Stick leagues across the country get an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas to play for the National Golden Stick Title. Thousands of dollars are at stake.
GSWL draws from a variety of regions. Massachusetts and New York established East Coast dominance. St. Louis, Philadelphia, Vermont, and Sacramento are organized and contending. “We’re tapping into the pro player inside of everybody,” Levesque says.
One gets a sense when meeting wiffle players that this statement is 100% accurate. They’re dead serious about the game. It possesses a culture all its own that revolves around the art and science of making a tiny plastic ball with eight holes on one side appear to break the laws of physics. The level of competition has skyrocketed in the last decade while the mainstream remains highly unaware of this professional sport which consumes American backyards and ball parks every summer.
Adam Trotta, member of the legendary team named DOOM, took a full-time position with Golden Stick this year. Levesque states of Trotta, “He brings a lot of value to the organization. DOOM is credited with more than 100 wiffle tournament wins. Someone with his skill and experience is a phenomenal addition.”
Big League Wiffle Ball specializes in a medium pitch speed format. Nick Benas, co-owner of BLWB, says, “By limiting pitching speeds we optimize action. There’s more hitting, more action in the field. Scuffed balls still cause the notorious wiffle movement during pitching, but the limited speed adds excitement to the game.” Pitch speeds are limited to 35 mph and monitored with random radar checks.
Benas and his business partner, Jared Verrillo, run a wiffle homerun derby at Fenway Park in Boston every year, manage the wiffle ball program for the Connecticut Nutmeg State Games, and sponsor tournaments across the country.
Fast Plastic no longer sponsors tournaments, but GSWL and BLWB haven’t seen a decrease in wiffle action or interest. Benas says, “If anything, guys like Lou Levesque absorbed FastPlastic’s marketshare and the pool of fast pitch players that evaporated with the end of Fast Plastic tournaments. People want to play competitively. We’re here to make sure that serious wiffle players have an opportunity to compete at the highest level for the highest pay.”
Levesque agrees. “GSWL is not about family feel or grilling out. We bring the best wiffle competition there is. Owners of my Golden Stick teams are born of successful players which brings unprecedented value to my tournaments.”
Don’t be surprised if you see a group of wiffle ball players practicing at your local park. They’re probably gearing up for a local tournament. They’re one team in thousands that are elevating their game for high stakes competition in the evolving sport of Professional Wiffle Ball.
Photos courtesy of Lou Levesque of Golden Stick Wiffle League.