Summer brings Wiffle ball tourney

From left to right: Brandon Lacoff, Erin Montague, Jenny Byxbee, Keith Hirsch, Ron Young

From left to right: Brandon Lacoff, Erin Montague, Jenny Byxbee, Keith Hirsch, Ron Young

For the seventh consecutive year, the Greenwich United Way will partner with the Greenwich Police Department and other sponsors to host the Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament July 26. 

The tournament is just one of eight non-polo events held at the Greenwich Polo Club each year, having brought together more than 60 teams in fierce but friendly competition, and will give wiffle fans throughout town a chance to play for prizes and, oh yeah, fun. Sign-ups are open and there’s plenty of chances left for people who want to play.

During the tournament, teams of four will compete for cash prizes, with the first place winner taking home $1,600, second place earning $800, third place netting $400 and fourth place receiving their entrance fee of $100. Each team entered into the tournament is guaranteed to play at least two games, and will be grouped into divisions based on age and skill.

The Greenwich United Way’s Youth Services Program Assistant and event chair Erin Montague said she also hopes to hold a home run derby in between tournament rounds, with winners taking home gift certificates and prizes from tournament sponsors. The tournament has a history that dates back to a makeshift Wiffle field and the hope remains for a permanent field to be built in town.

A group of Greenwich teens inspired the creation of the townwide tournament after they converted a public lot in Riverside into a makeshift Wiffle ball field, complete with a miniature replica of Fenway Park’s famous Green Monster. However, neighbor complaints over noise and security eventually led the town to evict the teens, citing issues of liability and use of municipal land. The decision caused a lot of uproar, and local organizations recognized the enthusiasm the teens showed in creating their own field and sought to give them an outlet for their creative and athletic efforts.

“There was a pretty big town controversy that the kids don’t have anything to do, they’re trying to make good use of their time, trying to stay drug-free and trying to do something good for the community, but weren’t being supported,” Ms. Montague said.

The Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament was subsequently launched in order to provide that outlet while also improving the relationship between the town’s youth and law enforcement. Proceeds from the tournament go towards the construction of a permanent Wiffle ball field for public use, an initiative that is growing ever closer to completion.

The Greenwich Police Department is one of the central event directors involved in every phase of the tournament’s planning. Officer Keith Hirsch has been the department’s representative for the Wiffle Ball Committee and has been described as an integral part of the planning process. Chief of Police James Heavy and Deputy Chief Mark Marino threw out the opening pitches for the last two tournaments and the Silver Shield Association is also a sponsor for the event, furthering the commitment for better relations between police and the kids they protect.

While several locations have been suggested and considered for the permanent field, including spaces near the International School at Dundee, Williams Street Playground and the Greenwich Civic Center, the United Way has seen success with a trial field at the Byram Picnic Grounds in Byram Shore Park. The Byram location had been used for Little League in the past, but suffered from a lack of maintenance for some time until the Department of Parks and Recreation issued a trial permit to the United Way for Wiffle ball.

A new fence and strike zone were added to the existing diamond and team benches, and players who made use of the trial field gave feedback on what they would need from a permanent location. Since the tournament’s inception, the Wiffle Ball Committee has worked to secure a space for the field, and has been developing its plans alongside the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We have specs for the field, we have all the designs ready to go, we’re just waiting or that last step of approval from the town and then we’re ready to build,” Ms. Montague said. “If it doesn’t build this fall, we’re certainly hopeful that early spring can bring that final step from the RTM.”

The committee hopes to reach the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) agenda in the early fall and present its plans for the permanent field. By considering locations that are already in use by the recreation organizations, the committee hopes to avoid the concerns of noise and safety that led to the closing of the original Riverside field. Additionally, funding from the Wiffle Ball Tournament would be used for the maintenance of the field after construction, preventing the potential burden of upkeep costs from falling on the town.

Event directors also include Belpointe Companies, Garden Catering, SEESmart LED and Golden Enterprises, while event sponsors include Pepsico, Pepsi Beverage Company, Cablevision, Greenwich EMS, UBS Private Wealth Management, New England Oil Company, Morgan Stanley, Interstate + Lakeland Lumber and Finocchio Brothers.

For more information on the tournament, or to register, visit Greenwichwiffle.com or contact Ms. Montague at 203-869-2221. Registration costs $100 for a team of four, and $125 for a team of five. In case of inclement weather, the tournament has a rain date of July 27.

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