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Downpour after downpour, the Williamstown Wiffleball League played through the torrential rain, trying to wrap up their ninth annual tournament.
But after a final thunderstorm flooded the outfield of Williamstown High School’s Hale Field, the tournament ended just before the playoffs started on July 25.
“We got all the way through the round robin portion of the schedule just as the huge thunderstorm hit, but everyone still had a good time,” coordinator and creator Ryan Mabry said. “A few of us got stuck in the field, hiding under the canopy on the field. The water was ankle-deep. I realized we would have to call it. That’s the first time we ever had to cut it short. I told everyone that we would play through a hurricane and we about did. It ended up being too much.”
The league, which started in 2001, was initially formed when Mabry spoke to fellow classmates at WHS about it, not expecting much interest in it. But by the end of that first day, Quinn Mortenson had 15 people who wanted to get involved.
“When we first started, I was 15 years old and we were talking about it in class,” Mortenson said. “Ryan didn’t think anyone wanted to play, but if I got 10 names, he would hold a tournament at his house. We looked forward to it. Once or twice a month, we played and it was like a real league. Now, it’s a tradition and it’s still a lot of fun.”
“We started back in 2001. My brother and I always played wiffleball in the backyard and I mentioned it to some of my friends at school and it sounded like fun,” Mabry said. “We started playing that summer, with playoffs, homerun derby. It was our version of major league baseball.”
The Wiffleball League met several times during the summer for league play, but as players moved on to college, they changed the league into a once-a-year tournament and a reunion of sorts. Now, the league includes friends from college, high school and players interested in having fun.
“A lot of people I see with wiffleball, I see once a year,” Mabry said. “It’s a great way to get everyone back together. It’s not something I was thinking about in 2001, but it’s turned into a great way to reconnect. It’s a fun way to spend a summer day.”
Mabry is entering his third year as a law student at the University of Cincinnati, but doesn’t have aspirations of being a lawyer. Instead, he wants to get involved with Major League Baseball and is an intern with the Cincinnati Reds this summer in their baseball operation department.
“I watch video of teams the Reds are going to play and help put scouting reports,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s exactly what I want to do.”
The night before the tournament, the league held their annual homerun derby. A.J. Mason took home the crown as champion after hitting 34 homeruns, with 23 in the final round. Patrick Steele was the runner-up.
The league tries to mimic MLB by giving out annual awards such as the wiffleball Cy Young award and the wiffleball Most Valuable Player award.
“We’ve always given out awards,” Mortenson said. “A lot of people in the league, including me, are big baseball fanatics and are in to stats. From the beginning, Mabry kept track of the stats and we’re able to go online and see what we’ve done. “
The group hopes that the league will continue to grow, as next year will be the 10th anniversary.
“I’d like to see it keep growing and the more people that come out, the better. Hopefully, we can get more people each year,” Mortenson said. “Without the Mabry family, we never would have played. We started out with four teams and 16 people. This year, we had 14 teams.”
“We’re trying to think of ways we can celebrate,” Mabry said. “There were close to 60 this year and it started with 16 people in my backyard. I remember saying that wiffleball isn’t as hard as baseball and softball. Everyone can come up and hit a home run or can come and pitch. It’s fun to be able to do things you can’t do on the baseball or softball field. I think this is getting to be a fixture in Williamstown and it’s something I never could have imagined when we started.”