July 7, 2017

CALL US WHEN THERE'S A HIT THE BAT LEAGUE (profanity alert):

There's No Crying in Professional Wiffle Ball (C. Brian Smith, 7/06/17,  Mel Magazine)


Golden Stick's slogan?

A backyard game taken way too far.

"We wanted to truly take it way too far," Levesque tells me, recounting the early days of the league. A few of the bucket-list items included: Playing for six-figure prizes; fully-sponsored teams; a reality show; collecting enough money to provide a disposable income to players and hiring a fleet of 20-somethings to be lemonade girls to "pour lemonade and trickle towels on the neck of players between innings," Levesque explains. "We were outrageous in what we thought. We wanted guys to find Golden Stick and feel that at 38 and chubby, with a pretty miserable life at home, they could walk on our field and scratch the surface of being the pro they always wanted to be."

Part of the charm of Wiffle ball is the fluidity in the rules depending on the backyard. Golden Stick, however, sought to bring nationwide consistency to the game by following a strict rule book, the basics of which included: four innings, three outs, two strikes to strike out, four balls to walk, 3-man* teams in the field and no one running the bases -- only "ghost runners" determined by how far the ball travels. (*There was one female Golden Stick player in 2007. She won the championship.)

The strike zone -- a 2-foot-by-3-foot square behind the batter -- determines balls and strikes. An 8-foot-by-8-foot backstop keeps balls from escaping and plays an important role on defense, which we'll get to in a minute. A "barrel line" in front of home plate (aka "the shit line," since anything that fails to pass this line epitomizes a shitty hit) marks the point past which the ball must travel to be considered fair. A second line ("the headline") is behind the pitcher's mound. If a player fields the ball in front of the headline and hits the backstop behind home plate in the air (which acts as a first baseman), the batter is out. Once the ball gets beyond that line, it can no longer be fielded for an out. "So as a hitter, you're trying to get the ball to touch the grass behind that line," Levesque explains. "And as a fielder you're trying to defend that ball from touching the grass and crossing that line."

Once it does, it's a single. Any ball that rolls to the outfield wall is a double, so a play's not dead when a ground ball comes through the infield. Instead, outfielders act as goalies at the home run fence to block the ball from making contact with the wall to avoid a double. Hitting the wall on the fly earns a triple, and a home run is a home run.

As such, the difference between Golden Stick Wiffle® and the backyard game you grew up playing, Leahy explains, is night and day. "There might be one or two kids that are above average. They can hit harder and throw strikes. Once you step on the Golden Stick field, though, it's like, 'Holy s[***], these guys are no joke.' It's like coming from T-ball and getting thrusted into Major League Baseball. A lot of people get humbled quickly, put their tails between their legs and go home."



MORE:
The Spaldeen Is Back (Even if the Dodgers Aren't) (BRENDAN I. KOERNERMARCH 13, 2005, NY Times)

AGING Brooklynites tend to don rose-colored glasses when recalling the quality of equipment used in stickball. They romanticize the game's pink rubber balls, known as Spaldeens, as paragons of durability and bounciness. So, on the rare occasions when a modern Spaldeen develops a crack, the complaint line lights up at Spalding, the balls' manufacturer.

"People really give us some grief," said Dan Touhey, Spalding's vice president for marketing and development. "They say, 'Hey, it's not as good as the one we used to play with.' But the irony is that the product that was being used in the 50's was a really downgraded product. It would break a lot more often."

The original Spaldeens, first sold in 1949, were just tennis balls that had been rejected for slight defects -- before the addition of the fuzzy coating. Rather than toss them in the trash, Spalding, based in Springfield, Mass., stamped the words "Spalding High-Bounce Ball" on the pink or gray rubber rejects and sold them cheaply to wholesalers.

Posted by at July 7, 2017 6:59 AM

  

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