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Wiffleball players compete during the 11th annual 
Wifflefest at Apollo Park on Saturday, July 18. 

(Photo by Eric Crump/HF Chronicle)

Forget Kris Bryant and Jose Abreu.

Sluggers at Saturday’s 11th annual Wifflefest, hosted by the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District, were swinging one- or two-ounce plastic bats and aiming for fences about 100 feet away.

A batter takes a swing at 
Wifflefest 2015 in Apollo 
Park on Saturday.
(Photo by 
Tom Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

It’s something of a national event with this year’s teams coming from as far away as Colorado and North Carolina. In all, 20 teams took to the eight diamonds at Apollo Park. They came from Indiana, Michigan, Mokena, LaGrange, Palos Park and other Chicago area communities. The two-time defending champs, the White Cubs, are from Streamwood.

Strangely enough, there were no players from Homewood or Flossmoor, which means there really was no root-root-rooting for the home team.

If you are under the impression that using a Wiffleball and bat is just for kids, think again. Wifflefest is strictly for adults 18 and older. Not surprisingly, Saturday’s participants all appeared to be men and most were younger than 30.

And, said Recreation Supervisor Kaitlyn Studer, they were all taking the day’s competition very seriously.

“It’s crazy but these guys love it,” Studer said. “It’s like Christmas for them.”

Wifflefest teams compete for
a trophy and small cash prize.
 
(Photo by Eric Crump/HF 
Chronicle)

Studer explained the rules. Teams can have three players – a pitcher and two fielders – on the diamond when the other team is at bat. The team at bat can have five players who come up to the plate. The game uses pitcher’s hands out rules. There are no walks and the number of foul balls is limited. The park district provided bats and balls to the team – only official Wiffleball equipment was allowed. Studer said the park district purchased 120 balls and 50 bats for the tournament.

When you watch a game at Wifflefest, it’s not uncommon to see hit batsmen. But there is no taking a base when this happens. Since the ball only weighs 0.7 of an ounce, there is never any damage and the bigger problem, for the batter, is to connect with a round piece of plastic that is fluttering like a butterfly. At this tournament it is also not uncommon to see a certain amount of what can politely be called “whiffing.”

Some teams at Wifflefest had uniforms with names and numbers. Other players wore tank tops – the temperature climbed into the 90s on Saturday – and some went without shoes.

Studer said Wiffleball tournaments are held all around the country but there are only two in Illinois each year. The other in-state competition, the modestly-named World Wiffleball Championship, took place last weekend in Skokie.  

The simplicity of the game is one of its attractions. While waiting for his turn at bat, Ciaran McGhee of the South Side Bone Smugglers said the small team size made it easy to get a team together.

“This is our fifth year,” he said. “There are teams here that have 10 years.”

Teammate Kyle Kalebich agreed.

“It’s fun. It’s a kids’ game,” Kalebich said. “But we’re guys. We’re competitive.”

And McGhee said there’s something satisfying about crushing a big home run, even when the ball is a lightweight.


More information:
Wifflefest
H-F Park District

 

(Video by Eric Crump/HF Chronicle)

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