Looking at the 2013 NWLA Tournament through an outsider's eyes...

Written by Beth Smith  |  Photographer and Beat Reporter  |  08.13.2013

Josh Smith rides with John Converse, father of the NWLA,  to see the fields for the first time. Josh admits to John that his team, Maroon
Squad from Huntington Wiffleball League, will probably do horribly, and he's not a good pitcher. But Josh wants to have a great time, no matter what, mingling with other lovers of wiffleball this weekend.
                The two discuss each team's personalities. Some are slated as serious; most are rumored to a blast to hang around with. I'm looking forward to meeting the guys from the Home Run League: the beer-drinking league. The Fun Team. I mean, their team name to represent the league is called Touched By An Uncle (is that hand sighing two in the pink/one in the stink?!). This will be their first time at the second annual NWLA Tournament.
                We arrive at the sports complex, and get over to see the fields. Wow! The layout is fantastic, complete. It looks perfect. We all stare with eyes glazed over in amazement at the large digital announcement board. A Jumbotron. I later overheard someone say that the Jumbotron is a, "Wiffleball player's wet dream."
                For the Huntington Wiffleball League, Josh Smith bring two players from the Maroon Squad: James Clagg and Randy "Supe" Steele. Rounding out the team is Greg Sowards, representing with his lob style pitch. Greg's wife, Christy Saxton also is here. What's up with WV bringing some ladies, and no one else did? Guys, bring some ladies and supporters next year!
                Josh gives us the tour, showing the wide-eyed newcomers Randy and James exactly what he's been crowing about since they learned they were coming. Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" loudly plays from the speakers that are being set up. Now is a perfect time to meet and greet. The guys from Tampa Bay are here, practicing hitting Wiffle golf balls. Yeah, that's right- golf ball sized holey balls. We see two very young fellows who upon introduction, we find they are here to represent the Mississippi Yard Ball League. Mystique had enshrouded this Mississippi league, because many things changed and no one really knew for sure what to expect. Here's what I saw: a badass pitch from Jacob Detz and an even badass-ier mascot. Landsharks? Yeah, what nightmares are made of.
                HRL is setting up for some practice. "Show 'em your wiffle," Truck says as he notes the wiffleball on the bottom of his awesome beer coozie.
                We meet the guys from Wisconsin. The Mequon (pronounced MEK-won, not MEE-kwon) Wiffleball League, represented by the Mequonderers for the tournament, has been just under the radar. The Maroon Squad and the Mequonderers go at it in a scrimmage. They seem like laid back guys, and we had a fun time.
                After finishing up the scrimmage, we head over to a large white tent for some grub and pool drawings. BBQs, which I spy being eaten sans bun, potato salad, and cornbread cake/prison poundcake. We draw #10, which pits us against Ontario County Wiffle Association's Freaky Franchise, Cincinnati Wiffleball Club's Clubbers, & Wiffle in Southeast Michigan's Big Wood. 
Heh. Big wood.
                Up next is the Home Run Derby. Carl Coffee and Sam Skibbe are commentating, and I will tell you that this part made this derby much more entertaining! Spectators were howling with these quips: "Like an aborted embryo, that baby is gone!"  "Like a dad in Harlem, it's outta here!" My personal favorite was "Have you ever seen a T-rex masturbate?" You instantly picture it, and you know it doesn't work. Representing HWL's Maroon Squad James Clagg is batting with Greg Sowards pitching. In the end, it's Ryan Bush taking home the honor.
                Following the Home Run Derby is the All Star Game, Gold against Blue. We have our guy Randy Steele on the Gold Team. I want to give props to Gold Team pitcher Brett Bigler (Freaky Franchise) for striking out the first 3 guys from Blue Team. Also, props to Blue Team's Austin Bischoff (Big Wood) for his very interesting and highly effective pitch. In the end, Blue Team wins. There is a (partial) streaker, who crosses the field to give a guy a good ol' lap sit.
Brandon Corbett atop Brian Meyers
                Saturday morning Round Robins: no one is wide-eyed. I walk around, and everyone is so quiet. the Mequonderers/Touched By An Uncle game is silent while I watch. Same for the Landshark/Aces (Kalamazoo Wiffleball League). I swear they're whispering.  Yes, everyone's tired.
                Round Robin Game 1. Maroon Squad is playing Freaky Franchise first, and you know, with FF taking home the champ title last year, we aren't expecting any miracles. This game is really for fun, and to have a good time with guys who love this game. The guys throw around remarks full of sarcasm and good will. FF's Ryan Bush's eye black gives him the look of a peregrine falcon, and that's intimidating, because those birds are badass. Freaky wins 24-1. Ouch.
                Round Robin Game 2. MS is playing the Cincinnati Wiffleball Club's Clubbers. Josh Smith tells Aaron Torchio that he believes they're a league even though their name calls them a club. I definitely didn't know what to expect, but that Torchio has quite a lot of movement on his pitches. Clubbers win 25-0. Ouch. This is CWBC's  first time here, and after the game I talked to guys to see what they thought before they came, and what they think now. They agreed that a hearty McDonald's breakfast of sausage burritos with hot sauce was the right choice. Being in the tough pool (well besides HWL), they wanted to really bring their game and fight hard to win to move to the next round. But they also shared that they want to have fun, and hang out with some of the guys. Clubbers, I hope to see you next year!
                We leave for a while to get some rest, because the next game isn't for a few hours. Eat. Nap. Things get real on the return to the field. Josh Smith says, "Let's find the field by memory this time." That is possible to do, except for the fact that the police have our exit blocked, both sides of the interstate. I believe a video of this fucked time is on the internet, somewhere. We arrive after 45 minutes after taking what normally is a 15 minute trip. Fortunately, the games were postponed due to some wild storms.
                Round Robin Game 3. MS is playing Big Wood. I think it's around this time when Josh Smith says, "We may have lost, be are undefeated" to a score of 14-0, Big Wood. This team comes complete with a clever logo, wooden train whistle, and a gem named Carl Coffee.
                Now that all teams have played and are seeded, the tournament can begin tomorrow. We head back to the luxurious Motel 6 after a mad hunt for Target to purchase some adult beverages. When we got back to the hotel, I realize I'm not young and spry anymore, because going to bed instead of partying sounds fabulous (and I didn't even play ball). 7:00 AM comes early, so Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is my lullaby.
                Next morning. Last day of the tournament. MS comes to field this morning with a -63 to 1 run differential. At this juncture, I will mention that Sowards is sporting eye black in the shape of penises complete with balls. Yes, one on each side of his face.
                Tournament Game 1. We get to the field without a hitch for out 8:00 am meeting with the Clubbers. Greg Sowards and James Clagg jokingly talk a big game to the guys of CWBC, offering "favors" for one lollipop hit per inning. I guess they take the MS guys up on their offer, because Clagg and Smith hit, and Steele hits a home run. Clubbers take the win with 18-6.
                Game 2 is quick, because it's a forfeit from the Griffleball League Panthers. Steele pops his Heineken.
                Game 3. PWL is a fun team to play. All the guys are throwing around silly trash talk. Clagg has pulled a muscle in his upper leg from jumping fences like a cat, but he keeps playing regardless of the pain. Of course, PWL gets the win with 8-3.
                And that ends Huntington Wiffleball League's Maroon Squad's time in this tournament. We're wiped, and we have to return home to rest up for work in the morning. Does anyone else have "Blurred Lines" seared in your head??
                Before I sign off, let me explain something to you guys reading this. I'm an outsider. Hell, I still don't understand over half of this game's rules. As I'm sure you know, my husband Josh is pretty into wiffleball. Before I met him, I had no idea it existed as a sport played outside of gym class and summer barbeques. Throughout the past few years, I've developed an...let's say appreciation for the sport. I'm as sporty as your grandma, okay? Last year I totally passed on going with Josh and Greg. I agreed to come this year, mostly because Greg's wife Christy was coming. Also, I will admit I was kind of excited to finally meet the guys my husband writes and talks about. I was not disappointed. You guys did not let me down with the amount of passion you have for this sport, the kindness, and the overall good times. Things got awkward at some point in time, but I'm not going to let it ruin my experience. I look forward to perhaps coming again next year and watching you guys play! Thank you to everyone who helped put the NWLA Tournament together, and a special hats off to Chris Galloway for his hard work. 

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