Last night nearly two-dozen members of the league gathered in the back room of El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant Bar & Grill and discussed the plans for the 2014 season. Seven out of the ten teams had representation, many of which brought additional team members. Teams in attendance were the Green Bears, Honey Badgers, BagTag, Wiffle Ballers, Wee Willy Wiffle (formerly Pitch Slappers), Breaking Balls, and the newly formed Sit on my Base. All teams present turned in sign-up forms and began paying the registration fees. Full rosters were finally announced for all seven teams in attendance and you can find out more about that at the Hot Stove report. But three teams still need to get moving on preparing for 2014: Pink Penguins, Maroon $quad, & Go Jackie Go.
The first thing accomplished at the meeting was spinning the wheel to decide which teams ended up in the Jewel City or River City divisions. Both divisions ended up fairly evenly matched which will make for a great season. Only 8 teams will make it to the playoffs and it will be interesting to see those battles toward the end of the season in the lower half of the standings. Teams will be playing divisional teams 14 times and 6 inter-divisional games for a total of 20 games in the 10-week season. Halfway through the season we will have our first official All-Star Game on May 6, 2014. Teams will vote for one of their own team members to represent their team in the all-star game. A lot of people want to know how we will be selecting players for the NWLA Tournament and part of the process is through the all-star game...after all we want to send our best, right? The players from the winning all-star team will get first crack at taking the opportunity to go to Columbus to represent our league in the national tournament (July 18-20, 2014).
Rules were the hot topic of the night were rule changes for this season. The major rule change was the switch to the official skinny yellow Wiffle Ball bat. But no one really was vocally against the decision to change and we will be moving forward with that as our only bat accepted during regulation games. Next we announced that we were now allowing sliding into second and third base ONLY. Surprisingly, the biggest debates were about the 10-run rule we have where teams that score 10-runs in one inning must allow the other team to bat. Mercy-rule would still be in place after 3 complete innings but teams that score 10 runs in one inning will now be permitted to continue. Perhaps the most confusing rule we discussed was the overstepping third base rule. The rule is that once you pass third base at some point there is a point of no return where you must commit to running home due to the play-at-the-plate rule we have to throw home bound runners out by hitting the backstop/strike-zone. Before it was more than a step past third now there will be some sort of 5'x5' outline in foul territory around third base so hitters actually have a chance to take a few steps, turn around, and decide. It is a rule that will have to be experimented with in spring training.
Overall the Winter Meeting went extremely well with far more league participation. I was reminded of the 2013 Winter Meeting that had only three people there. It made me realize just how far we have come in such a short time but at the same time I realize how much work is left to be done. March is just around the corner. The snow is melting and temperatures are slowly rising. Wiffleball season is near. Get ready.