For the Love of the Game

by Mike P. Hamilton | 6/27/01 5:00am

There are a few delights that come around only during the summer. There is the feeling of jumping in the water for a swim after a long, hot day's work. There is enjoying ice cream in the shade evading the hot afternoon sun. There are many other small pleasures that come around this time of year, but most importantly there is wiffleball.

Wiffleball is one of those summer pastimes that is as American as cookouts and the Fourth of July. While baseball may actually be our national pastime, you could call wiffleball our summer pastime. Or at least mine.

Wiffleball owes its popularity to the fact that it is a very egalitarian game. There is no need to have any athletic ability whatsoever to play the game. In truth, there is no need to have any athletic ability to be good at the game. An out of shape middle-aged man with nasty breaking stuff is about as valuable as an athletic teenager. For those of us who need to sweep away the cobwebs to remember our athletic glory days, this is a big selling point.

Another selling point is the fact that it is easy to get together a game. If you wanted to play a real game of baseball, it would require 18 players, not to mention a diamond to play on. Wiffleball only requires a bat, a ball and at least two people.

You can also make the rules up to fit the number of people and venue you have for playing. You could actually have a nine inning game with just two people. How? Invisible runners and automatic base-hits, genius inventions both. The quirks of the playing field only serve to make the game better. That "short porch in right field" actually is a porch. Then there is always the amusement you can get from repeating this phrase: "Way back! Way back! The centerfielder is at the warning track! Watch out for the clothesline! Ouch, that hurts!"

Another draw is the ability to replay great moments in baseball. You can't count the number of times I have reenacted Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in Game 6 of the '75 World Series while waving a ball fair in a wiffleball game. Nothing is better than emulating the batting stance of your favorite player while playing home run derby with friends. How many other "athletic" pastimes allow you to do this?

This summer, grownups will be reliving their athletic glory days and kids will be emulating their major league heroes, all the while trying to avoid the picnic table with pasta salad on it when going back for a fly ball. From Maine to San Diego, wiffleball will help pass the time on those long, lazy summer afternoons, and even well into the darkness you'll be able to hear young kids arguing over whether they were safe or not.

By spending the $1.99 or whatever it costs to buy a wiffleball bat at your local store, you too can take part in this fun. It could be one of the best investments you ever make.