This is one of my favorite holidays, probably because Wiffleball could just be my all-time favorite sport. I’ve always loved it. Whether playing in our backyard with my brother and sister, with my cousins in their yard (pre-pool days), with everyone at our summer cottage – it was just a game that was fun. It stayed fun as I got older too – at college, after college, with friends, in tournaments, with nieces and nephews. I still get excited every time I see the Wiffleball and Bat combination make their first appearance in stores in late winter – I have to buy one. The game just brings me joy. That’s why last year for my birthday, Lola put together a Wiffleball game for us in the backyard. We put fences up, drew foul lines, created a strike zone. The real deal. It was one of the best birthdays ever.
When looking at the calendar this year, we saw that National Wiffleball Day was on Sunday, so we decided to have another game in the yard. The invites went out, the plans were made and the celebration was set in motion. We spent most of Saturday and part of Sunday getting ready. Field was mowed and the yard tidied up. We put the fences back up. For the fence, I just used some tarps secured over a rope with zip ties. It gets the job done. Ideally, I would like to recreate the fences at old Yankee Stadium (complete with the facade), but for now, the tarps do a good job and give you the feel of a homerun fence (you need that for a good Wiffleball game). We resurrected our strike zone (which had been dismantled and repurposed for Halloween) and then drew the foul lines with some field marking spray paint, drawn slightly crooked – a Dan Lederer trademark.
We made some pulled pork in the slow cooker overnight so we wouldn’t have to slave over a stove, put together a quick Italian Hoagie Dip, a fan favorite, and some pasta salad too. Got everything ready to be set up under a tent, we iced up beers and waters, lined the yard with chairs and we were ready to go. A labor of love. Our only snag: it was the hottest day of the year. I mean National Weather Service extreme heat warning kind of heat. We decided that our original start time of 1:00 might be too harsh, so we bumped up everything to start at 4 PM. We knew it would still be hot, but it just wouldn’t be playing in the high heat of the day.
With the extra time, Lola and I put the finishing touches on the field, but also spent a lot of time in the river. It’s been so hot this week, we’ve been taking regular dips just to cool our core. It’s been fun. We’ve been swimming like little kids all week. Lola even showed me her handstands and her two armed backstroke and we’ve challenged anyone we saw to chicken fights. It’s been moments of unfettered joy all week, plus it’s kept us cool.
The Breslin clan was the first to show up arriving with their patented fanfare of car horns and hoopla. Becky always adds an air of excitement and fun to these days – she comes ready to play and to have fun. She could be the perfect party guest; not just because she comes ready to play, but also because she’s always ready to help out, she’s an ice-breaker in any social interaction, she never comes empty handed and she can just bring the fun. Her daughter Molly will be like that too and she kind of already is. But more importantly, Molly is a Wiffleball MVP and won the tournament last year. She was wearing her game face today complete with her gamed hairstyle. Sam came too along with his girlfriend Sara. Sam has been living in RI this summer and has been dropping by on occasion to go swimming. When he comes, he always ends up having long chats with Lola as they sip a beer in the afternoon sun. It’s been so fun to have him around. Sam was new to our Wiffleball game this year, but he’s always been an athlete, so we knew he would go high in the draft. Sara would too.
The Gross family was next to arrive and Savvy’s choice of uniform was a bit nonconformist. I am not sure if I would have gone with my footie flannel pajamas on this day, but that’s what Savv was feeling. Apparently she had been to the beach and had been cold (yep, she’s a Mellow), so after she took a hot bath, she felt most comfy in the pajamas. Katie knew this wouldn’t last long (and it didn’t) but cheers to letting Savvy be Savvy. Within minutes, she changed in to a cute little dress as was Eva. Katie was wearing her athletic wear and ready to play. Meanwhile, Gary started to give his girls hitting instructions on the practice field.
The extended Waluk clan were the last to arrive. Pete was wearing his mystical white tiger shirt which he naturally removed the sleeves from as he didn’t want his pitching arm to be burdened. Cherie unpacked, as a Mom of three has to do, carefully getting all her kids and her stuff out of the truck and into position. It’s not easy. Brix and Wavy were zooming around within seconds and soon joined Gary for batting practice. We wanted make sure little Calix could stay cool in the heat, so we had set up Calix’s Cave – a sports umbrella in the shade set up with a fan to help keep him cool. He seemed content, although I can’t wait for when Calix can run around and play Wiffleball with us.
Pete’s brother Dave then came along with his wife Jeanie and daughter Mae (you might remember those two from S’mores Day). We love having them as part of our event – they bring the right amount of competition and fun to any game. Dave is quick to point out that he is undefeated in our yard and he is genuinely proud of that. It’s fun to watch Dave with Pete too because the brother sibling rivalry element always comes out and as far as brothers go, these two will keep you laughing. Jeanie always adds an element of fun too because she’s got skills on the field and she’s just fun.
Teams were divided. It’s funny how this part stressed out some of the Mellows as they didn’t want to have that awkward last picked moment. There must be some kind of gym class anxiety deep rooted in them. To avoid that, we just drew straws (actually picked rocks). We had to slightly adjust the final roster, but the teams were set and after long delays, first pitch finally came at about 5. And it was hot.
I won’t go in to the play by play, but it was a great afternoon of Wiffleball action. It was Waluk vs Waluk on the mound, both doing a great job of laying off the hard stuff for the less experienced batters, but bringing the heat when the occasion called for it. The first hit of the day went to Jeanie who crushed a grounder past her husband for a base hit. It stayed kind of even for the first three innings with runners on both sides but no scoring, then Molly came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with runners on 2nd and 3rd, a heat-stroked Uncle Pete on the mound in front of her. Pete brought a slow curve that was breaking towards the strike zone and Molly crushed it – a double into left field bringing in the first run of the day. The crowd erupted with chants of “MVP!”
One of my favorite little moments from the day was when I hit a hard double right in Becky’s direction. I must have caught her off guard because she made no motion towards it. It was a clean double and not much she could have done, but I know Becky felt embarrassed. Two batters later, her daughter came up to the plate and this time Becky dug in and was ready for action. Molly crushed it again, but right to her Mom. Becky saw it, braced for it, was ready for it, but bobbled it. Molly had doubled in another run, but this one came at the literal hands of her Mom. That’s what is fun about Wiffleball – you never know what’s going to happen. I should say that Becky is a fine fielder – it’s just part of the game. She can be proud of her playing and should be.
By the top of the sixth (last inning), the score was 5 – o and Pete’s team was down to their last three outs. I can be proud to say that out number two was a pop up right over my head that I stayed with and clasped safely with two hands for an out. Made me feel like I had won the world series and I was just so excited I hadn’t dropped it. The last out was an uneventful strikeout, but the game was over. Molly was MVP again, Dave remained undefeated in the yard, and we all shook hands as good sports will do. So fun.
One of the best little moments of the day came in the heat of the game (I mean the actual sweaty, hot heat of the game). We heard the sound of an ice cream truck in the distance. Then suddenly, the sound was coming closer. Th truck, Pete’s Ice Cream, had backed down the side street that runs alongside our yard (not a place for traffic) and parked at the opening to our yard and blasted it’s little jingle just in case we didn’t see him. We are not sure how he knew we were back there or what drew him to our yard, but we were excited (even more so than the kiddies). Lola yelled out, “Hold on! I have to go get some money from my Mom!” It was that kind of feeling. Everyone lined up outside the truck and picked their favorite treat. What a moment.
Today was National Creamsicle Day too. A Creamsicle was one of Gigi’s (Lola’s mom) favorites. Lola of course celebrated with one right from the truck. Gigi would have loved this party and so loved an Ice Cream truck coming down the yard. I realized that I broke one of my prime-directives about the Quest which says that if whatever is being celebrated presents itself, I have to get it. But I wasn’t feeling Creamsicle at the time, so I went ChocoTaco instead. I did have a creamsicle later at night after all had left. I had bought a box of them just for that reason, so I did celebrate, but I kind of regret not joining Lola for that creamsicle in the moment. Lola was totally soaking in the holiday.
This was one of my favorite days which I hope I always celebrate. We were missing those folks who couldn’t make it (last year’s ace Jeff Breslin, Tara and Ben, my brother and sister), but for today our crew was perfect. We survived the heat. We had some fun. And we celebrated a perfect summer day with the perfect summer sport.
(Tomorrow: National Relaxation Day – phew)