Wiffle Ball tournament brings town near full-time field

An all-day Wiffle ball tournament at Greenwich Polo Club saw a lot of action for 64 teams and hundreds of players, including Ron Young as he literally pitched in –John Ferris Robben

An all-day Wiffle ball tournament at Greenwich Polo Club saw a lot of action for 64 teams and hundreds of players, including Ron Young as he literally pitched in –John Ferris Robben

After another successful tournament, Greenwich is one step closer to realizing its own “Field of Dreams” by having a permanent Wiffle ball field built at Byram Park.

This past Saturday the Greenwich United Way led the effort for the seventh annual Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament. The tournament came about after a makeshift Wiffle ball field, complete with a “green monster” fence similar to Fenway Park, was built several summers ago but had to be torn down due to liability concerns. The field was very popular among Greenwich youths, though, and since then Jenny Byxbee, who is now Greenwich’s youth services bureau coordinator, has worked with others through the United Way to build a permanent field where people can safely play.

Now, after years of work, it looks like it is on the verge of happening. Sue Snyder, superintendent for the recreation division of the town’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said she is prepared to go before the Representative Town Meeting at its Sept. 15 meeting so it can vote on a gift acceptance from the United Way. The actual amount of the gift is still unknown since the tournament was a fund-raiser, but it is expected to be able to completely cover the cost of the field.

And the tournament will have a big impact on that gift. According to organizers, at least $10,000 was raised by the event and more is still being counted.

Liz Morrow bats for the Belpointe Beauties. –John Ferris Robben

Liz Morrow bats for the Belpointe Beauties. –John Ferris Robben


In talking to the Post, Ms. Byxbee called this the “final swing” for the project. Support has already been given by the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee as well as the department itself and the field’s surrounding neighbors.

“What I love about this is that we’ve had people of all ages working towards making this a reality,” Ms. Byxbee said. “We have kids who started out doing this as 14- and 15-year-olds coming back as young adults. We have Greenwich police. We have Stamford police. Morgan Stanley is taking part in this. Everybody is in it together. It’s a wonderful feeling. This really represents the best of Greenwich.”

Ms. Byxbee added, “I’ve always said if Greenwich doesn’t care about Greenwich kids then no one will and we’ve had so much of Greenwich come out to support this project. The kids are the ones who’ve taken the lead here. They’re not waiting around hoping others will do it for them. They’re out there making it happen for themselves. They’re part of the solution, which I love. That’s what we wanted to teach them with this.”

Ms. Snyder has a bit of a clock to work against as the closeout date for the RTM’s September agenda is Aug. 22, but everything is expected to be in hand by then. And while the RTM is notorious for allowing even the best-laid plans to go awry, all appears to be set for an approval. The gift covers the installation of the outfield wall and everything else needed. The field has been used for Wiffle ball in the past but is mostly used for picnics now. It was the site previously of a temporary test field set up by the United Way, and though the setup was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the experiment proved to be a success, and it’s believed the RTM will give the needed approval.

“After that it will simply be a matter of building it,” Ms. Snyder, who also got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the tournament, said. She will be submitting a full report about the field and its impact on the community to give to the RTM committees before their vote in September.

Ms. Byxbee said she isn’t making any assumptions about how the RTM will vote but she says the merits of the project are clear and the money for the field is coming as a gift from the United Way. She called Ms. Snyder “the champion” of the field project with all she’s shown about how to work through the town process to get this done.

At the tournament, while there were a few raindrops, the games lasted all day before Doom, for the third year in a row, were crowned champions of the single-elimination tournament, taking home the $1,600 purse. Overall there were 64 teams, with players of all ages, utilizing the 20 fields set up at Greenwich Polo Club. Beyond Doom there were teams from all over Greenwich and surrounding towns like Stamford and Port Chester, N.Y., with names like McWiffles, Honey Nut Ichiros, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Grand Slam, Belpointe Beauties and Live United.

Team Doom took home the $1,600 prize –John Ferris Robben

Team Doom took home the $1,600 prize –John Ferris Robben

In remarks to the players before the first pitch, Ms. Byxbee made sure to thank the polo club for its help as well as the tournament’s sponsors. The Greenwich Post served as media sponsor and there was food and drink supplied by Garden Catering, Pepsico and Longford’s Ice Cream.

The Greenwich Police Department also played a major role in the development of the tournament, with Officer Keith Hirsch saying it resembled one that he started 20 years ago as a resident. After a 10-year hiatus, Officer Hirsch and others in the department teamed up with the United Way to have the tournament and he said it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Greenwich Polo Club, which let the tournament use its grounds for the day for only $1.

“There’s no other place in town or in any other nearby town where we can set up 20 fields,” Officer Hirsch said. “If we needed to we could set up 30.”

Officer Hirsch received loud cheers as well as his fair share of boos when he said that the permanent Wiffle field wouldn’t have a green monster on it because it would be more like Yankee Stadium and less like Fenway Park.

It’s unclear if this is the last year of the tournament, since the field could well be completed by this time in 2015. Erin Montague, who started out in the Junior United Way and is now in her third year as event director, is not shutting the door on future events like this because of the positive impact they can have.

“I feel we’re setting a great example for the kids about having an issue and building the right pieces and pulling together the right stakeholders to create an effective solution,” Ms. Montague said. “We showed them how to work together and how strong this community can be.”

Ms. Montague said it was important to recognize how many local people and businesses wanted to support the event, adding that she was getting calls as late as 11:30 the night before the tournament from people wanting to help.

With so many coming out in force to support building the Wiffle field, Ms. Snyder said it proved this was the right project for Greenwich.

“This is pretty impressive especially knowing they’ve been doing this tournament for seven years,” Ms. Snyder said. “This has been a dream for them and it’s good to know that they’ve been pushing for this for so long and I can help them get to the last step. It’s great to see how persistent they’ve been. This is exciting.”

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