Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Backyard of Dreams

The winds of summer were whispering to Joe: If you build it, they'll more than likely come if they don't already have plans.

And so, never one to disobey whispering voices, Joe set to work on his grand construction project, a wiffle ball field in his back yard. The Cellar Dwellers have been playing wiffle ball together for a number of years, but in a largely unorganized fashion. This year, however, at Joe's annual "Happy Fun BBQ," they would be playing in style.

Joe began back in April by creating an artistic rendering and schematics for his backyard field. What was essentially a digital-napkin drawing would eventually become his greatest achievement.

Measuring the field would be the hardest part. Joe would do much of the labor himself, spending hours walking straight lines with measuring tape and string. Everything would need to be exact to avoid any rule conflicts during play. Unlike baseball or softball, wiffle ball is a generally lawless beast. There are "official" rules at, but even those are subject to change depending on the situation, lay of the land, and people involved. Such questions often arise like "is it foul if the ball hits a tree?"; "are you out if you knock over someone's drink?"; and "where is the strike zone?" Joe, ever a lover of detail, made sure to tackle most issues prior to the opening game.

Joe spent months toiling away in the backyard. He went to Lowe's and purchased yards of green plastic fencing and PVC pipe to construct the massive wall that spanned the outfield. As the schematic shows, he also had plans for a "big green monster," but because of the trees in the backyard, this wound up being unnecessary; Mother Nature would provide the monsters.

After constructing his wall, he moved on to the bases. He wisely opted for flat rubber bases instead of the more authentic base bags used in baseball. While he may claim this was because of cost concerns, others were just happy not to have to fear twisting an ankle. Once the bases were in place, and correctly measured, he set to work drawing the baselines. For this, Joe used flour, string, and a cart to get everything straight and professional.

The final touch to the field was a working scoreboard. After constructing the stand, Joe carved up squares of dry erase board and glued them on. This would allow teams to write in their name and keep track of the score for every inning (he also left a space for outs). This would be one of the first wiffle ball stadiums to offer this sort of score-keeping luxury, and make it up easier for fans to keep track of stats in their programs.

Joe's field (which goes by a number of names, including "The Sonny Bono Memorial Wiffle Ball Field" and "The Tom Selleck Memorial Wiffle Ball Field"), had its inaugural game last Saturday, August 16th at the Happy Fun BBQ. The full game, which lasted roughly two and a half hours and nine whole innings, was between the aptly named "Sellecks" and the "Pink Ponies."

Throughout the game, the goal of both teams (obviously) was to hit a home run. This, however, proved harder than first thought. The outfield wall was a mere two yards or so behind the second base, but the fly balls never seemed to make it over. A few were nabbed by the trees, which created an instant game of Plinko for the outfielders to deal with. Other hits just stopped short, or bounced off the fence. It wasn't until after the game, when a second, shorter game began that star-hitter Big Matt Bower smashed one out of the park. Bottle rockets were shot into the air to celebrate.

Yes, Joe's dream of having his own wiffle ball stadium finally came true, with a little bit of elbow grease. Who knows when it's beautiful greens will be graced by the sneakers of great athletes... but so long as he has it, people will probably stop by... if they can.