ASHLAND, Ky. – When I think back on my summers growing up, wiffleball was a big part of it.
Every neighborhood in Ashland had “stadiums” where you could play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 wiffleball for hours upon end.
Our favorite stadium was Greg Estep’s side yard. The beauty of our field was that while it was extremely narrow, it had the right trappings surrounding it. It had tall trees, but not so bushy a wiffleball couldn’t pinball its way down through the branches. You never knew for sure where it was going to come out, but it (almost) always did. We had to make some spectacular diving catches when, at the last second, the ball would take a sharp turn.
Our home run line was perfect, too — a line of thick bushes only about 4 feet tall. If you could get back there fast enough, robbing a home run was a possibility.
We played mostly 2-on-2 games of double-or-nothing. You pitch whatever you wanted — curveballs, drops, knucklers or even the high hard one. It was pretty much an anything goes kind of game.
We not only played the games, but we kept standings and statistics as we went along, too. (Is it any wonder I turned out to be a sportswriter?). Most of the time the day would end when either a) the wiffleball got stuck in the aforementioned tree or b) the ball split in half from so many hits.
We weren’t easy on the wiffleballs because we used our wooden bats. How many of you remember Little League coaches threatening you about the evils of wiffleball (not to mention swimming on the day of a game)?
They lectured us on how it was going to mess up our swing using that light, skinny yellow bat. So we heeded the warning and used the wooden bats. Of course, after so many hits with a wooden bat, the plastic wiffleball, which wasn’t made for such a beating, would split in half. That’s when we discovered the real reason why electrical tape was invented in the first place.
Truth is, those games of wiffleball did more to enhance our skills than dull them. We got to see how a curveball would spin and a knuckleball would flutter. It wasn’t so bad when you came across the pitches for the first time in a baseball game.
Those wiffleball games with my neighborhood pals in Estep’s side yard are still a special memory as are the days of basketball at the Henderson’s court and football and baseball at The Neighborhood Palace, aka Stafford’s Field. That’s where I learned to play and appreciate sports the most.
This coming Saturday the fifth annual Amy For Africa Wiffleball Classic takes place on the corner lots of Unity Baptist Church. The tournament has grown to 36 teams and this year includes first responder teams from the Ashland Fire Department, Ashland Police Department and Boyd County Sheriff’s Department.
Defending champion Shepherd’s Fold (now One-Hit Wonders) and former champions L-Train (now L&S Express), Kona Kannon Ballers and the Baseball Bunch (now Benny and the Jets).
Come on out and watch these Wiffle Ballers take a swing for missions in Uganda while taking a good long drink from the Fountain of Youth.