So first off it was a fantastic day in Bedford on Saturday, and I have to say this it is truly amazing to see that many teams in one place playing at such a high level. I am going to do a writeup of all of the action giving credit to the outstanding play of several teams and individuals, but I wanted to wait on that for a couple of days because I think that the issues Trotta raised in his entry should remain front and center for the wifflers to weigh in on.
To me it is really simple. It isn’t about how many people were having fun Saturday. I feel like most of us who drive all over New England (and sometimes beyond) every Saturday after working all week at some god-awful hour to do something that almost always results in some sort of pain, be it physical, psychological or both have to be having fun or it just doesn’t make sense. I mean, it isn’t as if we can walk into a bar and say, “Did you know that I am a member of the 5th ranked Big League WIFFLE Ball team of all time, and that I once pitched 11 consecutive scoreless innings in Goldenstick league play? We have shirts with real logos and hats. I wear 5 knee braces at one time and I am pretty sure I need Tommy John surgery. Would you like to be making sexy time with me now?” Probably not. It might work for guys like BLWB co-founder Euro J-Rod, who wears sunglasses indoors with tight jeans and a tighter shirt, but it probably won’t work for you. My point is that ego can only be a small part of it, so there has to be some fun or we are all just mentally ill.
Some people really enjoy the competitive aspect of it, and get their kicks from trying to play at the highest level possible. That’s admirable. Hell, if my team didn’t have that attitude, we wouldn’t win any games at all, being that 2/3 of us struggle with basic mobility and none of us were ever identified by the national baseball development program, assuming that such a program exists. I am sure every team out there has envisioned themselves winning some national title on some car trip to Hopkinton at some point. It should be that way.
Above said, however, Trotta is dead on with his main point. The goal of this thing is to make it bigger. For the same reason that playing BLWB Bedford last weekend is more fun than playing some pick up game in the back yard with whatever warm bodies you can snag from the neighborhood, playing in bigger tournaments with bigger money and bigger draws and more potential glory and more bells and whistles would be even more fun.
To grow we need to focus on the local people- the recreational wifflers. We need 15 of those teams from Bedford playing in 15 divisions. And besides, the only way a recreational team can become a regular team is if we get them there in the first place. This requires, in my mind, two things.
The first goes to the promotion of the tournaments themseles. By traveling from town to town, we have a tremendous opportunity to draw from different local populations, grow our tournaments and gain potential regulars. I think too much focus is on advertising in the wiffle community and too little is on promoting in the towns themselves. I believe that if local high schools and colleges and college towns, and YMCAs and athletic clubs were somehow able to get the information at it were presented properly, all sorts of people- adults, kids, families would be willing to pay $20 a head to give it a shot. If we give them a good experience, a percentage of that number will be willing to travel an hour or two next weekend to give it another go, and we can add them to the new people we can generate in the new town. It can grow with every tournament. What we need are ideas to get this done.
The second goes to actually providing them with a good experience. Euro J-Rod and Benas do a great job with the structure, facilities, equipment, food, drinks, and general people skills, so I think we have that covered. The question is whether our current format is perfectly-designed to achieve the goal, which is providing a stage where the top teams can play hard, competitive games to determine the best teams, and the newer players can come, have a great time, see some great play but not be so overwhelmed that we scare them away. I can’t count the number of teams that we have destroyed in the round robin, watched get destroyed by Yo Ho Ho and Whitey WHackers, and never seen again. These are the teams we need to capture. And the more of them we capture, the more of them will be at the next tournament, creating more matchups between weaker teams and a greater likelihood that even more of them come back.
I think I like his speed limit proposition. At this point, most of us can hit the ball at 40-45 MPH, but there were still a bunch of low-scoring games that aren’t exactly thrilling from a marketing perspective. ANd the one team that went 0-4 in our division couldn’t hit it at all, and I wonder if they will be back. Also, I think it is difficult to judge the difference between a 40 MPH drop and a 45MPH. 35 is not fast. If the ball comes in fast, it isn’t 35. Maybe I am wrong about this, but it seems to me easier to judge. THe pitcher gets scuffed balls so the talented ones will still have the advantage of some nasty movement, and he also gets the advantage of pitching to yellow bats. The batter gets unlimited fouls and a very manageable speed limit. I think there will be an overall shift to more balls in play, with a greater emphasis on fielding, keeping the walks down and forcing batters not to give away outs. Each game can be won or lost by any player on the field. I think it sounds exciting and I think it will result in more action. More action means more consistent interest from more people. I also think the best teams will still rise to the top.
The top teams still have many chances to play fast pitch for high stakes. If we make this change, they also get the different, but I think equally-challenging opportunity to weave their way to the top of medium pitch tournaments using a slightly different set of skills. I love playing this game in any format, but how would more people with names we don’t know want to play? That’s the question.
I really want to hear your thoughts on this.
And speaking of slower pitching, I paid $250 to GSWL today to sacrifice my body to the prospect division. This obviously calls my judgment into serious question.