It’s been a few seasons since I’ve taken off the Commissioner’s hat and made some predictions. Sure, we’re over half way done with the Summer Season and it might seem a little late. But for the first time, over half of our teams were completely new this year. That left a lot of unanswered questions…until now. Now that I’ve had a chance to see ‘em, I’m ready to call ‘em.
If you disagree…by all means, use the Color Commentary. Be careful though, you still have six games worth of decisions on hits or errors to live through.
“Wait for your pitch.” I remember it like it was yesterday. My little league coach, pulling double duty as third base coach, would yell to me and most of my teammates. “Wait for your pitch.”
I guess I should clarify something before we continue. In Dwight, Kansas (population 350) we didn’t actually play “Little League” (all rights reserved, etc, etc, etc). We were part of the Flint Hills Baseball Association, and my age division at the time, the first in which we pitched to ourselves instead of our dads pitching to us, 10-12 year olds, was called “Juniors”. (A significant step up from the 7-9 year old division which was called “Biscuits”.) So, I use the term little league generically, to indicate all levels and types of youth baseball, and not to mean the gestapo like jackass organization with which I have a love/hate relationship, Little League Baseball, Incorporated.
When asked if he preferred AstroTurf over grass, Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw said, “I dunno, I never smoked any.”
In the PWL, we don’t have a choice. We’re a grass only operation. And that grass, in case you haven’t noticed, hasn’t been mowed by the National Park Service in quite some time. It’s so long, we even had our first grass out in league history this season, with games cancelled due to the long stuff. While the bugs have loved it, it’s becoming a bit unbearable for the players.
Sure, the playing field has been ok. Somehow the grass on the playing field has kept a short length, estimated by league officials at 2.5 inches. It’s probably the arsenic in the ground soil keeping it down. But fans, media, and league staff working off the field wade through blades almost up to their kneecaps.
It’s so bad, we’ve have lots of suggestions on how to fix the problem. Guest player from Week 4 Elivn Clapp, known as Cool Papa in the PWL, came up with a top ten list of ideas for us.
Top Ten Ways to Get the Park Service off the Dime and Mow the Field by Elvin Cool Papa Clapp
10. Call Janet Reno and indicate that the field named in her honor is not being well kept by NPS. 9. Call my buddy Vaughn Baker, Superintendent of Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park, and tell him to pull some strings in D.C. He is Brian’s godfather. 8. Deploy goats to mow the field. They are less likely to have mechanical problems, but watch where you step. 7. Call Georgetown frat boys and indicate there is free grass at Ft. Reno – and bring their clippers. 6. Blame the rain on global warming and get some stimulus money from EPA. 5. Petition NPS to install proper drainage at field and to stop fertilizing the grass – it will grow w/o chemicals. 4. Kick the Nats out of their ballpark and play under the lights. Attendance would be higher. Better yet, move to Chase Field in Phoenix as Diamondbacks are folding fast. 3. Call Sara Palin in Alaska with urgent message that there are “Russians” hiding in grass at Ft. Reno, which she should be able to see from her backyard. 2. Stage a lawn mower race at Ft. Reno, with a first place prize of a pink wiffle ball bat. 1. Stage a Civil War (a/k/a War of Northern Aggression) reenactment. They will trample anything.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elivin “Cool Papa” Clapp is hitless in five career appearances in the PWL, and resides in Phoenix, AZ. He’s the father of Deputy Commissioner and Rossi Possse Manager Brian Clapp.
The newest addition to the PWL, the Blandford Barnburners, played a one inning run rule game against the The Gnats during week 1, beating them 14-0. In fact, only two of the three batters from the The Gnats made it up to the plate, and both got out.
Blandsford Barnburners at The Gnats
Score By Innings
The question is, with a shortened, run rule game, does it count as a perfect game?
The Canvassers announced today that they have released five year veteran Tony Cani, just over a week out from Opening Day of the 2009 Spring Season.
Cani, who has spent his entire career with the four time World Champions , had a disappointing 2008 hitting just .283 and falling out of the league leaders with his pitching. He was also cut from the 2008 All-Star Team that travelled to London, Ohio, to represent the league in the annual tournament.
Cani struggled with the higher altitudes of Ft. Reno after the league moved from Gravelly Point, and routinely complained about this to teammates, league officials, fans, and pretty much anyone who would listen. The home video he made of all of his home runs at the end of each season became so short in 2008 it would even play on his iPhone.
The Canvassers have a gap to fill in the pitching spot, and time is running out, but Manager Chris Gallaway isn’t worried. “We expect to win the World Series every year. And if we don’t win, then something needs to change. I don’t mind a great pitcher who doesn’t hit as well as the fielder. But, when you can’t pitch, can’t hit, and cry in the locker room, it’s time to make a move.”
As the league’s New Media Director for a short time, Cani was responsible for some important improvements including the re-design of the website and for creating the condensed game summary videos. His lasting legacy may be the photo of himself popping out to the pitcher that is one of the rotating banners on the website featuring the caption, “everybody loves the long ball”.
In our first ever, “where are they now” story, the PWL checked-in with former league member Mindie Reule. Reule, one of only three female players in league history to hit an out of the park home run, walked away from a promising career after the 2007 season. Her stats are still among the best in league history for a female and she was named the Spring 2007 Most Valuable Female Player.
After four seasons, three with the Borg, one with the “The Martha Washingtons”, Reule transferred to the fledgling Rocky Mountain Wiffleball League. Unfortunately, the effect of the high Denver altitude, the lack of a fan base, and something known as (redacted), killed the league before it could get off the ground. Disappointed, Reule still yearned for the feel of plastic on plastic action, and like many young stars, turned to all the wrong places for comfort, including…softball.
After abusing it in college, Reule had successfully kicked her softball habit for several years. There was an occasional relapse, and as her career in the PWL started to take off, she became more and more comfortable she could handle it. She even played in a softball “league”. (As if you can call a group of teams who play but don’t keep stats and videos a “league”.)
The moderate summer temperatures in Denver and no wiffleball left her feeling cold and lonely, so she turned back to softball once again, this time, the batting cages. It was at the cages, late last August, where she finally hit rock bottom.
Witnesses described the scene as best they could, but it was not easy to talk about. “She was so hopped up on goofballs, I don’t think she knew what she was doing”, said one eye witness. “I really don’t think she knew that the bat was metal, I think she was too far gone to even realize that”, remembered another.
Reule, in some sort of rage, broke a bat in half.
It wasn’t a yellow plastic bat in her hand, hitting wiffleballs; it was an aluminum softball bat hitting softballs. The handle, shredded, sat in her hands as she wreaked havoc on onlookers.
When asked about what happened, she still refuses to comment. It’s clear though that the moment changed her, and everyone there that day forever.
Reule has since recovered from the episode and returned to her hometown of Montesano, Washington to recuperate. She says she misses wiffleball, but has no plans to return.
From the desk of PWL New Media Director, Lead-off Batter for the Canvassers, three time Player of the Week, and 2007 All Star Tony Cani
Tonight at a holiday party, Commissioner Gallaway and I learned from an intern that the George Washington University intramural program offered a winter indoor wiffleball league.
After learning that the league did not keep any stats (pretty lame) but that they did run things similar to the London tournament our all-stars participated in, the commissioner and I decided we had to stop drinking, go see what was up, and see if we couldn’t recruit some new PWLers
Eager to learn how the university ran the league, which rules they employed, and how popular it was – the Commissioner and I headed to campus for the 10pm game.
Upon entry to the student rec center, we were asked to fill out some paperwork, show our ids, and provide a ten dollar guest paymernt each. We happily did so.
Once inside, we were interested in seeing how GW set up the field, dismayed to see a player warming up with a baseball glove on (though he did say later it was for intimidation purposes, and not for the actual game), excited to recruit new teams for our next season, and motivated to get some video and photos of it all to share with our league mates.
As soon as the camera was pulled out by yours truly – a man, identifying himself as “Professional Staff” of the intramural league asked if we were students, if we were allowed to be there, and if we had a “permit” to videotape.
After I replied “this is the commissioner of the Potomac Wiffleball League that is standing here” he seemed unfazed – and I knew we were in trouble.
A few radio communications between IM staff and their mysterious boss later, we learned the following:
We were going to be kicked out and refunded our money.
The game we were to watch was to be a forfeit, something 75% of GW IM games are according to the “professional staffer.”
Our PWL business cards did not carry as much authority with GWU staff as they should.
When the “Intramural Director” was asked if the policy not allowing us in to observe the games, despite being granted access by his staff, and showing up to highlight to positive aspects of their league was REASONABLE he proclaimed, “I don’t care if it is reasonable.”
Threatening the wrath of the Wackazoid did nothing to pursuade staff they were making a mistake.
So, we were kicked out.
Luckily, however, we were able to hand out several business cards in our 8 minutes in the gym – and potentially recruit a PWL “College Liason” to help us tap into the network of collegiate wiffleball players in DC.
Winter, especially in light of the Gravelly Point controversy , is long and hard for us hardcore wifflers. It is disappointing that such a sudden ray of hope was extinguished by the bureaucrats at GWU.
Maybe the video below will help you cope with the offseason.
UPDATE: The Commissioner has hacked the GWU mainframe in a move reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (or maybe War Games) to get the official rules of GWU Wiffleball
The Spring 2006 Season has all the makings of a re-creation of 1961. An expanded league schedule, going from 10 games to 14. The addition of 4 expansion teams to thin out the quality of play. The real question will be at the end of the season, will the asterisk appear on any single season records set this Spring?
While those discussions can wait, the Commissioners predictions on this season can’t, and it’s time to call them as I see them from the league office here on Snowpea Court.
By leaps and bounds the toughest Division in the PWL. The East will produce the wildcard team for the postseason and will win at least 6 more games than the other two divisions when the dust settles on Week 4 and inter-division play is over.
Canvassers – The two-time World Champion’s are destined to repeat as the Divisional Champions. They’ve lost a key player in David Gross, who after failed contract negotiations has formed the upstart Mary’s Mad Dogs. Unconfirmed reports were that Gross was asking for the new breakfast flavored Gatorade and a quart jar of Vaseline for each game. The Canvassers have filled the hole in their roster with Andrea Pagano, who will compete strongly for the ranking of the best female player. While Manager Gallaway is past his prime on the playing field, his skills in the dugout continue to improve, and returning players Zigmund and Cani are just getting better with age. They lost to the Hot Sundaes in Week 1, but expect only one more defeat on the way to the Division Championship. Plus, their new uniforms, both home and away versions, are the best in the league. (12 wins – 2 losses)
Borg – The surprising play of the Borg last season makes them a force to be reckoned with for most teams this year. If they weren’t in the same Division as the Canvassers, they’d likely win their Division. Don’t let their Week 1 victory over the Cowboys fool you though. They’re not good enough to beat the two-handed Cowboys, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they got knocked off by a couple of new teams. Ben Prochazka and Mindie Reule are the core of this team, and if Ben stays healthy…well, we’ve heard that before…and if Mindie could hit the ball anywhere but the first base line…they can score. Of course, scoring is only part of the game, and there might not be a worse fielding team in the league. The additions of Tim and Steve to their roster last year vastly improved their squad as less-than-stellar Coby and totally-unremarkable Lew see less playing time. If only Tim and Steve could pitch. They sit on top of the East now…but they started out the same way last season. Look for the same result, a second place finish, but they will claim the overall wildcard. (11 wins – 3 losses)
Mammas, Pappas and Zapatas – Like the Monkee’s, this team was created just for the show. With a ridiculous name and yet-to-be determined talent, it’s hard to know for sure where they end up this season. They need to recruit more players to make sure they can play all their games, something manager Ryan Grover couldn’t do last season. As the only returning player, Grover’s .378 batting average isn’t going to be enough to carry this team. I’m picking them to beat most of the other teams who are in it for “fun” and not to win, but they could easily go 1 and 13 with a revolving door of players. (5 wins – 9 losses)
Big Red Bat – A totally new team, with all rookie players, Big Red Bat is a big red question mark. Both their manager Todd Conklin and player Tobey Flagstaff seem to know their way around a wiffleball field. They had a bad draw Week 1 having to play the Hot Sundaes, as well as revitalized Masterbatters team who was looking for revenge after an opening day thrashing by the Canvassers. Their 0-2 start is deceiving, and the Commish wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in third place in the Division outplaying the Mammas, Pappas…forget it, I give up, you know who I mean. I assume their name, Big Red Bat is a reference to a commonly used alternative to the “official” Wifflebat, which has a bigger barrel, and is, well…it’s red and not yellow. If so, they’re at least in the ballpark on having an interesting team name which references the sport. After they learn the game, they could be dangerous and might squeak out a few victories. There is a rumor that their manager works for the Secret Service, but it’s unclear if that is true, or if that means trouble. (4 wins – 10 losses)
The newest Division in the league and probably the weakest, though not by much. Two teams from last season return, though one has a new name.
Coconut Cowboys – The Cowboys only lost 3 games that they actually played last season, and none were in the regular season. It just happened that the 2 they lost in the World Series cost them the Championship. 2006 Summer Batting Triple Crown winner Ross Duenas returns as their manager and with a full cast on his arm and hand hit .615 with one homer during Week 1. Their loss to the Borg might as well have been a forfeit, with Ross’s injury, and new players who couldn’t get a hit if their lives depended on it. The Cowboy’s phoned it in. Even so shorthanded they beat the Mamma, Pappas and Zapatas in their second game. If we see the return of Anne and Sam…who we desperately miss, both for different reasons…the Cowboys should be up to form. Though, rumor has it that Sam is still so shell-shocked from his performance in the World Series that when he takes the mound he loses control of his bladder. They’ll run away with this Division, and the cast came off last week. (13 wins – 1 loss)
Mary’s Mad Dogs – After winning two Championships with the Canvassers, David Gross is finally out on his own. He brings with him Mary and Andrew to form Mary’s Mad Dogs. They dealt a loss to the Whiffleblowers in Week 1, largely through a lot of Whiffle-blown opportunities. In Spring Training and Exhibition games they say they’ve hung close with the Canvassers, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. They sit on top of the Central right now, but they won’t be there for long. Their real problem is being able to score. They limp in a run here and there, but don’t have the defense win games that way. If they can get in the 5-7 runs per game range, they’ll win some ballgames, otherwise, expect them to be one of those teams that “almost” wins a lot, but loses by two runs. (9 wins – 5 losses)
DC Whifflehouse – You might remember these guys as the Ballers for Jesus from the Summer 2006 season. Not even divine intervention could help them last year as they were the absolute worst team in the league. That’s despite their manager, Ryan Hughes, being nominated twice for Player of the Week, and despite being featured on the front page of the Washington Examiner during a practice session on the Mall. ( http://www.potomacwiffleball.org/News/66/wiffleball-on-the-mall ) Like the Mad Dogs, they have a scoring problem and lose a lot of close games that could go either way. Good news is that I’m predicting them to double their win number, from 1 to 2. However, with the 4 extra games, that means they get 3 more losses too. (2 wins – 12 losses)
Good Sportsmanship – Another completely new team and total unknown in the league. They have matching shirts, but not uniforms. So, it’s kind of like they got close, but just couldn’t finish. They play Wiffleball about the same way. It’s unclear if their manager, Andrew Wiseman should spend more time on the shirts, or on his batting, which isn’t good. However, Troy and Mike appear to have decent sticks, and if the good lord is willing and the creek don’t rise these rooks might get a W or two. It’s also unclear after Week 1 if Good Sportsmanship is a) a true statement about their beliefs, b) irony, or c) something you say when you lose 12 games. (2 wins – 12 losses)
The West has two returning teams, and some good new players, but as it was when there were just two Divisions, will continue to be outshined by the East. With no All-Star Game by Division, at least they won’t have to worry about that embarrassing loss again.
Hot Sundaes – Remember when little Kevin Hyde was a below average platoon player with Just Look at Yourself? A blink of an eye and he’s in his third season as a big-league skipper, with basically the same team he’s fielded the last two times. They’ve got Kevin and Kevin and Phil and Jim. They all four share a brain, and it’s unclear who has it during the playoffs. This same team has made it to the playoffs…twice, and has lost the decisive Game 3…twice. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Unfortunately this year won’t be any different. Finally out of the shadow of the Canvassers and the Cowboys, the Sundaes will experience total domination of their Division. They’ll also have the best record in the league this season, but it won’t be enough for them to make it to the big show. Keep hanging those Division pennants boys; they look nice next to your high school graduation tassels on the rear view mirror of your cars. (13 wins – 1 loss)
Masterbatters – They threatened a name change, (apparently the logo didn’t go over so well in the bathrooms of the porno theatres frequented by team manager Dan Dondero), but in the end are sticking with it. What they did do though, was recruit a solid player in Joe Gortenburg who can hit, pitch, and field, which is something the combined talent of their team couldn’t do before. Dan’s also been working on his arm strength (see above), and hit two homers in Week 1. In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly double the amount of Homers he hit in the entire two previous seasons combined. We’re told they also have new chants, but “work it, own it” was good enough in Week 1 to go .500. We still love these guys and gals, and Wiffleball wouldn’t be Wiffleball without them. If they put some glue on Ben’s hands so he can catch a ball, for the first time in league history, they’re going to win more than they lose. (8 wins – 6 losses)
Whiffleblowers – Brand new team, all rookie players. Last minute walk-on Kris Garcia beat out two veterans for Player of Week for Week 1 in what was otherwise a mixed bag for the Whiffleblowers. They’re still learning who they are and how to play together. They stranded four base runners in their 3-1 loss to the Mad Dogs. If they keep going at this rate, they’ll be one of those teams who is just a run or two shy of winning. Their manager seems thoroughly un-American and wouldn’t know a base hit if it was served up to him by a special interest lobbyist in an envelope of unmarked bills. Regardless, we’re glad they’re in the league, and if they start to play together, could surprise even the Commissioner and win more games that predicted. (3 wins – 11 losses)
Team FSI – Is a brand new team with all new players and were no-shows Week 1. Their manager is a professional organizer, though clearly better at talking than turn-out. She’s also from Tennessee, which means we need to all speak slower. I’m picking them to win two games because, hey, with 12 teams, everyone ought to be able to win two games. I’ve heard they’ve already been doing a little trash talking, so they should be fun…if they ever show up. (2 wins – 12 losses)
With three Divisions, the Divisional Champion from each will head to the postseason, as well as the remaining team with the best overall record. That means it will be the Hot Sundaes from the West, Coconut Cowboys from the Central, and the Canvassers from the East. The Borg will end up being the wild-card, setting up the same four teams from the last post-season, when both series took three games to decide a winner. However, since the team with the best record will play the team with the worst, there will be a criss-cross of the Divisional contests from 06. The Coconut Cowboys will have the overall best record and will host the Borg in Round 1, and the Hot Sundaes will host the Canvassers in a re-match of the Spring 2006 Divisional Championship Series. These same teams all met Week 1, but expect different results. The Canvassers will beat the Sundaes in 3, and take revenge for their loss at the start of the season. The Borg won’t be so lucky to face a one-armed Ross in the playoffs, and will go 2 and out against the Cowboys.
It shouldn’t be this way, but it will be. A re-match of the 2006 Summer Series, only this time the Cowboys will have home field advantage over the Canvassers because of record. The turf won’t change the result though, Canvassers in three…for a three-peat. A third consecutive World Championship. The only question after that, can anyone take the title away from this team? Or are they just in a league of their own?
Remember, Wiffleball isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s in the top three.