Wiffle Ball Tournament A Big Hit As Light-Hearted Community Event
By: Christopher Kazarian
Ever since 1953 when the Wiffle ball was created, the object has frustrated and entertained both children and adults, men and women alike, with the way it dips, curves and floats in the air thanks to its lightweight, perforated design.
That was the case late yesterday morning and continuing on into the afternoon on a section of lawn directly behind the Falmouth Trade Center building on Spring Bars Road. There, more than 55 adults took part in the second annual Silver Shores Wiffle Ball Tournament for the right to be called the Wiffle Ball champion in Falmouth.
Some took powerful swings at the ball, and whiffed, while others were more successful, hitting it over the Blue Monster—the trade center’s version of the Green Monster—and against the building’s white-painted, wooden facade for a home run.
A total of 11 co-ed adult teams took part in yesterday’s event, which was a joint venture of the Quahog Republic Dive Bar, Barefoot Bars and brothers T.M. and Seton Murphy, co-authors of the novel “The Running Waves.”
Proceeds from the tournament, which included a home run derby featuring former Red Sox pitcher Mark Portugal serving up the gopher balls, went toward the Quahog Republic’s life scholarship given to graduating seniors from Falmouth who epitomize the restaurant’s “Live, Give and Relax” philosophy. Thanks to money raised from last year’s event, five scholarships of $400 each were awarded this year, including one to Mary Toner, 18, who was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Holding that first pitch ball proudly in her hand, Mary, who is headed to Boston College in the fall, said her only practice this weekend was playing catch with her 5-year-old golden retriever Bonney. “It’s a little hard getting it back,” she laughed.
Whether she might use her experience yesterday to vault her into more prominence, such as throwing out a game ball at Fenway Park, Mary was realistic: “This is probably it for me,” she said.
JR Brody's Looks To Repeat
Likewise, for others on hand, yesterday’s tournament was the pinnacle, at least as far as Wiffle ball goes. And beforehand many were looking to dethrone last year’s champion, J.R. Brody’s Roadside Tavern on East Falmouth Highway.
“This is our lucky golden bat,” said J.R. Brody’s team captain and cook Shawn Price, the only holdover from last year’s squad, as he held up a gold-colored Wiffle ball bat.
“No one could compete against us last year,” he bragged. It got so bad the team was as hated as the New York Yankees are in these parts, and in the championship game “every single person was rooting against us,” he said.
So this year, with age limits increased to 21, the team had a decidedly different flavor as it could not draw from college students who were playing baseball for their schools as it did last year. Instead, JR Brody’s was made up of Daryl “DJ” Gonsalves, Jeff Allen, Sydney S. Brewster and April Tierney, all restaurant employees.
Still, the team members were confident they could repeat as champions. Their secret? “Swing, swing away,” Mr. Gonsalves divulged.
“It’s all about the kids,” Mr. Price jokingly added.
I love Wiffle ball. I remember growing up I played it all the time with my brothers. It is a summer pastime, especially here on the Cape.
On the balcony of the trade center overlooking right field, teammates Rory C. Morse and Patrick H. Bonzagni of the Beach House Restaurant in North Falmouth found solace in last year’s 11-1 defeat at the hands of J.R. Brody’s. “We lost, but we were the only team to score on them,” Mr. Morse said. “I feel like that’s a great starting point for us.”
Mr. Bonzagni, who owns the Beach House, served as its coach. His philosophy is decidedly lax. “Practice? Practice? I don’t care about practice. I’m talking about the game,” said Mr. Bonzagni, doing his best Allen Iverson imitation when asked about his team’s preparations leading up to the tournament.
Whether a bad performance by any of his players at yesterday’s tournament could lead to possible punishment at work, Mr. Bonzagni laughed, “I checked with my lawyers and they said if it was on Beach House grounds I could, but I can’t here.”
Among those to cement themselves in the tournament’s lore last year was Christopher D. Malone, who hit the first home run ever while playing for the Leeside Bar, where he works as a bartender. In this tournament, unfortunately, hitters are not given the opportunity to celebrate with a home run trot, but if given the chance, Mr. Malone said, “I’d probably run backwards around the bases.”
Battling For Woods Hole Supremacy
His team, consisting of C.T. Harry II, Ashley Dratch, Louie L. Werch and Jason DiGregorio, were the first to play yesterday morning in a matchup for Woods Hole supremacy against the Landfall Restaurant, located across the street from the Leeside.
“I’m nervous,” Mr. Harry said beforehand. To calm those pre-game jitters, he said, he started the day with a cup of coffee and a banana. “I might move to more abrasive measures if the mood strikes,” he said.
His team would fall to the Landfall, which featured a lineup that drove in eight runs over the four innings of play. Leading the way for them was Anthony T. Albanese, who hit a grand slam in the third inning that essentially put the game out of reach.
The tournament featured everything from standard ballgame fare, hot dogs served up by TK Dogs, to caricatures drawn by artist Mark Penta of Framingham, to the singing of the national anthem by the Murphys’ sister, Courtney.
Silver Shores Wifle Ball Tournament
2012 Champion: Barefoot Bars which bested The Landfall Restaurant, 2-1, in the championship game
Home Run Derby Winner: Peter Tormey (Barefoot Bars) with four home runs
There were newcomers to the sport—Samara A. Laliberte and Caroline Woodruff of Anejo—to more seasoned pros like Seton Murphy, who briefly shadowboxed prior to the start of the event. “It’s been a tough off-season,” he said, joking that “we did a lot of training down in Florida.”
The tournament also gave rise to some family rivalries with T.M. Murphy, playing for The Running Waves, and his wife Vanessa, playing for the Beach House, forced to root against one another.
It was more of the same for the Coyne family with Kerryn M. Turner, playing for the Quahog Republic, taking to Facebook to talk trash about her sister, ice hockey Olympian Colleen Coyne, who was recruited by T.M. Murphy, a former Falmouth High School classmate, to play on The Running Waves team.
At least once a year, Ms. Coyne and her family gather together to play Wiffle ball in Falmouth. With her experience, she promised to bring “positive energy and some good locker room presence” to her team, she said.
She was not the only celebrity to grace The Running Waves team. Joining her was former Bachelorette star Chris Lambton of Dennis, who now stars in his own HGTV show called “Going Yard.”
“I hope to go yard today,” he said, later adding that he models his batting stance on one of the better home run hitters of the modern era: Ken Griffey Jr. “He had one of the sweetest swings of all time,” Mr. Lambton said.
Whether or not he could duplicate Mr. Griffey’s long ball prowess, Mr. Lambton said, he was thrilled to participate in yesterday’s event, noting that Wiffle ball games epitomize summer on Cape Cod as much as a day at the beach or a backyard barbecue with family and friends. “I love Wiffle ball. I remember growing up I played it all the time with my brothers. It is a summer pastime, especially here on the Cape,” he said. “And doing something like this is a great way to spend your Monday.”
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