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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josh Smith is the founder of Wiffler’s Digest. Smith was (and still is) the head columnist for the National Wiffleball League Association but decided he wanted to widen his scope for writing on the sport…thus Wiffler’s Digest was born. Starting first as a wiffleball news blog it snowballed to become a bi-monthly online magazine that readers could have access to for free. The audience for the blog and magazine have been growing – spreading from the United States to Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, and beyond. Smith visited Washington, DC the weekend Week 2 of the Spring Season was scheduled but it was rained out.
I have not mentioned myself much on this blog and I prefer to keep it that way as much as possible but this post requires me to narrate my recent personal experience as a wiffleball league commissioner and it is for this reason that I will be using words like “I” and “me.” It is my hope that you will forgive me for speaking out of the third person narration of the latest topics at hand in the wiffle world. Now that we have that out of the way, please allow me to continue…
Some of you reading this may be aware of the fact that I ran a small league called the Garrett Drive Wiffleball League for nearly 10 years in my home town. Last year, for a host of reasons, things just did not work out. I pulled the plug on the season and ultimately the league. I felt it was time to move on and I was tired or wasting my time with something I believed was fruitless. I had pulled the plug on the league before in 2008. But when I decided to revive it in 2010 the results were pretty amazing. For some reason the results could not be duplicated the following year. Fool me once…right? I was definitely done running a league. If you don’t run your league give your commissioner a pat on the back – it is a lot of hard work and it is seldom appreciated. When spring came I felt no desire to get a league running again. Sure, I felt like throwing the ball around but I’ve got a couple friends I could do that with any time. Getting any more people than that is either difficult or complicates things.
However, all this changed in mid-April when Chris Gallaway invited me out to Washington D.C. to check out his league, the 20-team behemoth known as the Potomac Wiffleball League.
1. Chris Gallaway - Other than being one of the nicest dudes on the planet, Chris impressed me with his never ending commitment to the sport. My skill in operating a league have never been anywhere near the level of Gallaway. I truly adore this game and I’ve talked to a lot of players and fanatics and if I had to say who loves the game most I would have to pick Chris. The PWL is Gallaway’s endless labor of love. The level in which he has organized his league is something that can only be achieved by a mad-man or master strategist. I’m not sure which Gallaway is…possibly both. The way he talked about the game reminded me of something I should have always known…I need to play wiffleball. It no longer seems like an option. He unwittingly helped me realize that. This realization took a while to set in but made the trip worth it when you consider that it rained on that Sunday and I did not get to see any PWL games. On a related note: expect a portion of a video interview I captured with him on that rainy Sunday. An article featuring the full interview will be in the next issue of the magazine and then followed by a posting of the FULL interview.
2. This Blog/Magazine – It’s kind of hard to ignore the desire to play the game when I am constantly watching just how much fun leagues like WSEM, KWL, and Palisades WBL are having. I generally get behind the keyboard after having a glass of milk and browse the web for the latest news and video before getting ready for work. Sometimes I have enough time to put together a post and other times I just watch a highlights video or read the latest headline on a league website. I work together with a lot of people who really care about the game with each issue of the magazine. This website and the magazine served as a constant reminder that I was not playing wiffleball, only studying it. What is the fun in that? To be honest, I do enjoy studying the game and the way that it has grown to what it is today but is it so wrong to enjoy hitting one of those perforated plastic balls every once in a while? No.
3. Destination: Beautiful – A constant challenge I faced every spring while preparing each season for my old league was finding a grassy flat space with a fence that was not being used for something else. As simple as the task may sound, one visit to West Virginia will make you understand why such a place is easier described than found. Half of my friends in my home town have either moved far away to do something with their college degrees or to nearby cities like Charleston or Huntington. One of my friends took up residence in Huntington last year and when I visited him merely a week after returning home from Washington D.C. he showed me a run-down looking park with 3 baseball fields and a softball field. It used to host a single-A semi-pro baseball team for the Cubs in the early 1990s but has since been home to various little leagues and adult softball leagues. There was plenty of room for the addition of a wiffleball league my friend pointed out. I found it funny because I still had no desire to start up a league. So we walked around for an hour or so and threw a wiffleball around. The area felt like a good home for a wiffleball league and the city had 4 times the population of my home town. The pieces were falling into place without me even wanting to pursue the idea or starting a new league. It felt like destiny.
4. Greg Sowards – I feel that it is appropriate to give the “friend” mentioned in reason #3 a name and face for you (the reader). His name is Greg Sowards and he has been my best friend for the past 12 years. He helped me create my first wiffleball league and was my teammate since 2002. He took me to St. Cloud Commons community park, which was only a few blocks from his house, which now is home to our new league (Huntington Wiffle League). He was one of the few people who showed up week-in and week-out in the old league no matter what. Were it not for his encouragement I would still not be playing in a league right now. It is for this reason I named him co-commissioner of the league. We have been playing twice a week for over a month now and it is all because of him. He has a girlfriend and three kids but still finds a way to get to the field every week. He captains his own team now, Beaver Fever, and has done a great job recruiting new players.
5. KWL Rulebook – Anyone who has ever started their own league knows that establishing the rules is one of hardest tasks of being a commissioner. My first league spent its first two years arguing over rules. We had to make it up as we went along. Finally when we had all the rules established we had to switch venues. Thankfully we avoided all that bickering by adopting and modifying the KWL rules. They probably have the best rules out there and are perfect for most non-fast pitch leagues. We have had a blast and not had a single argument about rules so far and all that was made possible by the clear rules as published by the KWL. Now I can focus on other aspects of the league rather than making a outline for a rulebook.
All of these reasons and more serve as a pretty good explanation as to why the blog has not been updated at the same frequency as it was last year. I hope this long post makes up for the lack of content lately. Hope everyone has a great season. I know I will.