Wiffle ball tourney expected to be a home run

FI-baseballA little friendly competition never hurt anyone and in the case of the sixth annual Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament, to be held on Saturday, July 20, children all over town will benefit from it.

The tournament for residents of all ages will once again be hosted by the Greenwich United Way, whose mission since the event’s inception has been to raise money for the construction of a permanent “wiffle ball field of dreams” for the town’s youth. The Post’s parent company, Hersam Acorn Newpapers, will serve as media sponsor for the tournament, which will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

The concept of the field of dreams began about six years ago after young Greenwich residents set up their own wiffle ball field in town. When it was determined that the field, which was built on a drainage lot, was potentially dangerous and constituted a lawsuit risk, the town was forced to close it. It was a loss felt not only by children but by community members of all ages, prompting the launch of the townwide wiffle ball tournament.

According to Jenny Byxbee, the youth services coordinator for the United Way and a leading figure in the development of the event, the annual tournament “has always been about a fun, community event” and has built more momentum each year since its establishment. In fact, Ms. Byxbee said she had high hopes that this will be the year the permanent field is erected, especially given the success of the temporary field at Byram Park built last fall, which continues to be used daily by local youth.

“I like to think that we all learn how to make the best possible event even better year after year,” Ms. Byxbee said, adding that two home run derbies held over the last year helped bolster enthusiasm for the tournament.

It seems residents don’t need much coaxing in the enthusiasm department, however, as registration is nearly at its capacity of 64 four-person teams, which will be broken into youth, family and young adult divisions. At the start of the tournament, each team is guaranteed to play two games, Ms. Byxbee said. After the first is played, teams are separated into brackets, which allow teams of even skill levels to face off.

“You can have 12-year-olds that are beating 30-year-olds … that’s one of the reasons I love wiffle ball so much because really it’s any man’s game,” Ms. Byxbee said.

And although the permanent wiffle ball field may finally become a reality this year, Ms. Byxbee said she hopes to continue the tournament if it will benefit the town’s youth. “If it can benefit children in Greenwich in some way whether it be through a program or service or donating the money back,” the United Way will be behind it, she said.

One of the highlights of the tournament for Ms. Byxbee is seeing younger children who have become young adults return to play for the community. There are plenty of kids who participated in the event at a younger age and now come back from college to continue their support, she said.

One such loyal participant is Erin Montague, the 24-year-old chair of the Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament who has “really earned her spot as event chair,” Ms. Byxbee said. “She makes me so proud.”

Ms. Montague has had plenty of fun in her position, combining her passion for helping the town’s youth with her passion for sports, she said. The Greenwich Wiffle Ball Committee’s dedication to the event, along with Ms. Byxbee’s expertise, has created “a very unique camaraderie with the teams,” Ms. Montague said. “There’s a business approach but … we keep in mind that the point of this is to give back to the kids in the community,” she added.

As far as building the wiffle ball field of dreams goes, Ms. Montague said she shares Ms. Byxbee’s optimism that it may finally be achieved within the year. The biggest hurdle has been securing a partnership with both the town and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which has been established, Ms. Montague said.

Now that that obstacle is out of the way and most of the funding for the field has been acquired, it’s a matter of raising awareness and excitement for the field, she said. In fact, she added, the United Way would like to help build more than one wiffle ball field in town if the interest from town youth is there.

Interacting with tournament participants on social media platforms like Facebook has greatly helped boost enthusiasm this year, which is exactly what is needed now that a permanent wiffle ball field is so close to becoming a reality, Ms. Montague said. Any time the event chair has posted a need for volunteers, a slew of young adults who participate in the tournament have offered their assistance. They are also often the ones who get younger participants excited about playing, serving as cheerleaders for the youth when they hit home runs or make a great play, she said.

That kind of support shows exactly what the Greenwich community is made of, she added.

The Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament will take place on Saturday, July 20, with a rain date of Sunday, July 21, at the Greenwich Polo Grounds. Teams are asked to sign in at 8 a.m., with a starting time for the tournament at 8:45 sharp. Spectators are encouraged to attend. Cash prizes for the top four teams will be distributed and food will be served.

 

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