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Change

By: Sam Skibbe


In my 31 years of existence, the sport of wiffleball has changed.


The true essence of the WIFFLE© bat and ball was a backyard game you could play anywhere. My brother and I would raid one of my aunt and uncle’s shed and always find their yellow bat in the back, and that “holey” ball underneath a lawnmower, and play for hours during family get-togethers. At my grandparents’ 20-acre compound in Illinois, we created family tournaments and pick up games. We would bring the bat and ball on trips where we knew there would be just enough land to hit and pitch in one on one games we would make up together.


Then, the game changed.


In the 8th grade, three of my best friends, and baseball teammates at the time, were playing wiffleball in my parents’ one-acre backyard. During a break in the action, we sat on the retaining wall and decided right then and there, we would start a league with four other players from our baseball team. Our baseball coach decided what he thought would be fair teams (they turned out to be awful in terms of competitiveness), we made a schedule for the first couple of matchups, made a score sheet for stats and built a field in that same backyard we came up with the idea on. Orange construction fencing and wooden stakes was the first fencing solution. No strike zone, no walks, medium pitch, with high scores galore. Our first champions were crowned and the league gained buzz with all of our other friends, and continued to grow. Each year, something about our league and our field changed for the better.


If my 8th grade self would have been told that our league was still going on 18 years later, stronger than ever…I would have called you crazy. That’s what wifflers are though, a tad bit crazy.


Then, the game changed.


The only season I ever missed of the SWBL was in 2011. I lived in Albany, New York for the summer and now looking back on it, wished I knew there was more to wiffleball than just my own league. (I was in the prime location to play in multiple other leagues and tournaments! A wasted summer of wiffle and many missed opportunities for sure.) That summer, I knew with our players getting older and starting their adult lives, the league would have to evolve. I spent the entire summer watching feeds of the games going on in the backyard, trying to help as commissioner from miles away, and planning what ultimately is now known as one of the best weekend wiffleball experiences in the game. We moved from a full summer season to a weekend league and it was a huge hit and the best move our league could have ever made. Sure, we only play league play 4 days out of 365, but the anticipation of waiting for the “Woodstock of Wiffle” re-energizes you for an incredible four days of comradery and competition.


Then, the game changed.


The very next year, I finally discovered the wiffleball national scene. I requested to join the NWLA and after making our first website, was accepted into the community. The NWLA started in 2006, and I felt like we missed our on 6 years joining in 2012. We were already one of the oldest and longest running leagues in the country, after only joining for this first year. In that same year, the NWLA Tournament was born and we decided to see how we stacked up against wifflers from around the world. Four of us drove do Ohio and participated in the NWLA and London Tournament with lodging, gas, and food all paid for. We were one of the 8 original teams to inaugurate the tournament and start a tradition that will be forever remembered in the wiffle community. If you would have told me again, in 8th grade that we would be participating in a national wiffleball tournament in Ohio, I would never have believed you.


Then, the game changed.


Responsibility was the next chapter of my wiffleball career. I joined not only the NWLA Tournament Host Committee, but became the right hand man to NWLA founder, John Converse. John was a true pioneer in the sport and let me in on the project that he had been doing all by himself for almost seven years. Soon enough, John’s other responsibilities got in the way and he gave me the keys to the NWLA kingdom. The website got a revamp, a few components were added, and many were streamlined, but still all those years, the NWLA was missing something.


Now, the game is changing again.


Things have been rolling pretty steady for the NWLA, NWLA Tournament , and even the SWBL. Recently, there have been many pushes to bring the sport together even more. Fast Plastic returned, Whiffle Kings sort of started, but died, and many leagues and tournaments are expanding and growing, but still the sport seems too separated. An idea was formed to hopefully make a change.


National WIFFLE© is essentially a merge. A merge between the NWLA, the website wiffleballtournaments.com, and the Wiffle Now media network. This merger combines wiffleball leagues, tournaments, and media, all under the blessing of the beloved WIFFLE© company itself! The tournament in Atlanta with the same name, will be changing to something different to give National WIFFLE© it’s true identity: a place where any wiffleball enthusiast can go to find their game. This will be your one stop shop to find anything you need to know about wiffleball. Every event around the country will be represented and sought after to add to the site. The new National WIFFLE© Media Network will consist of any league or individual podcasts that want to have a free way to host and have their voice heard, along with the opportunity for leagues and tournaments to be featured in regional games of the month videos. The NWLA awards season will be expanded and National WIFFLE© will take over to cover the National Teams Lists, Team Rankings, Wiffy Awards, and even the national Hall of Fame. Everything you know and love about leagues, tournaments, and media will be under one website. The Players’ Tribune will give an opportunity for players to tell their story and hear why they love this sport so much.


Ultimately, this gives the opportunity for more people to be involved with growing the sport. Instead of one person spearheading each avenue, why not have everyone work together? Instead of different websites that tell you the same information in different locations, why not all work together to have one website where any wiffler knows, National WIFFLE© is where you can “find your game”.


Change is everywhere in the sport of wiffleball. The past, present, and the future is full of it. Buckle up, and join in on the newest change that will hopefully, bring us one-step closer in bringing this magnificently strange sport, unified in all of our craziness and glory.

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