PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tucked away behind a firehouse is a field of dreams, the home of the Ridley Park Wiffle Ball League.
“We started out just playing in the summer in our friends’ backyards,” Ridley Park Wiffle Ball League Commissioner Dylan Harshaw said. “We found this field. We got more people that wanted to play. So after we had enough people, we just decided to make it a little more official.”
With more than 30 participants, the wiffle ball players made their dreams come true on a field used for youth softball and that at one point, had a fence until the athletic club took it down, leaving the league to come up with their own.
“We ended up, the past three years, buying our own fences,” Austin Bleacher, the league’s co-founder, said. “Then we bought this really nice fence for about $400. So softball comes up to us and they give us supplies for the Wiffle Ball League because we pretty much take care of the fields so softball can play here.”
That working relationship has lasted eight years and during that time, the league has expanded to 10 teams, after having just eight.
Simply put, this is not your father’s wiffle ball.
“A lot of people when they think of wiffle ball, they think of barbecues in your backyard, just playing with your family,” Harshaw, the league’s commissioner, said. But when it gets to the level that we are playing, it gets a lot more difficult. The ball breaks a lot more than a baseball. Coming from 46 feet, it’s probably a lot quicker reaction time than a baseball as well. I just think it’s a whole different game.”
It’s a different game for sure, consisting of teams of four, who play three in the field, including the pitcher as they battle all summer long.
There’s also an all-star team that travels and plays in local tournaments.
This year, they entered a regional tournament and qualified for nationals next weekend in Michigan.
“We were in the death bracket,” Bleacher said. “If you win two games you move on as the fourth-seed. And we ended up winning the last two games and coming back from 10 runs in the championship, so we got the fourth-seed and play in the national tournament.”
Harshaw said, “We went in as one of the youngest teams, a lot of the guys are between 25 and 30; they’ve all been playing in the league a few years, and we turned some heads and qualified.”