Ahhhh Vegas, the Mecca of gambling, washed-up performers, whores and… Wiffleball? Yeah that’s right I said Wiffleball. I think the last thing that would ever come most people’s minds when someone mentions Sin City is the great sport of Wiffleball. That is until this year when the Wiffle ambassador, GSWL’s Lou Levesque started thinking about where his mark on the national Wffle world would start to be made. When you think about it, is there a more logical venue for the great players in the sport to come together for a weekend of Wiffle debauchery?… probably not. After all, the age group that greatly dominates the game is known as the “Spike TV” generation. This is the generation that made the World Series of Poker national television fodder. Levesque knew that there was no other place but Vegas to make it all happen.
Last January the announcement was made that the first annual Golden Stick WIffleball League National Championship would be held in Vegas. Not only would the championship be held in Vegas, but the winners of the New England and the newly christened New York Region would be awarded an all expenses paid trip to fight for the title. All franchise owners in both regions were primed to put together the team that would make the first free trip to Vegas in the history of the sport.
But, the question remained and was left virtually unsaid; “How in the hell was Lou going to get anybody out to the middle of the desert to watch this thing knowing full well that they were going to go home with a considerably thinner wallet?”. I mean after all, this is the city with no conscience; no qualms with taking the deed to your house so that you will keep the monetary faucet wide open. Lou knew exactly what he would do. Just as the city plays on everyone’s belief that this next hand will be the one that makes you rich, Lou played on all of our prideful and competitive bones that exist plentifully in every Wiffleball player’s body. The plans were set… and the announcement was about to be made.
The plans that I was referring to was to hold a tournament that was meant to crown the best all-around player in Wiffleball… The Ultimate Wiffler. Lou tirelessly promoted his idea to his players all year to mixed reactions. He promoted it to players across the country, some of who bit right away. But truth be told, less than a month before the tournament began he had 7 players committed to playing in the tournament… out of 36 spots. Lou came to me after the Fast Plastic National Championship in Austin, TX this year and quietly told me that fact. He went on to say, “If I tell Ryan Wood that Josh Pagano is going, and I tell Josh Pagano that Ryan Wood is going THEY’LL BOTH GO!!!!” And he then walked away laughing maniacally. The funny thing is that I knew he was right… and he was. Less than a month later he had all 36 spots filled with some of the best players that the game has to offer (including both Josh Pagano and Ryan Wood). Let me tell you from personal experience, the man is a hell of a salesman. It didn’t take him long to sell me.
Lucky for me I have some very good friends in the Wiffle world most notably Jack Caton of Krusty’s Kids and of course the immortal Riser/BLWB team of Nick Benas and Jared Verillo. Without the generosity of those three people (and my wife for not divorcing me) I would have been sitting in the wintery doldrums of Vermont in November.
All thanks aside, the action was set to begin on Sunday November 8th beginning with the Pro and Yard League National Championships between the MA Piranhas and NY Risers & the MA Throwbacks and NY Enemy respectively.
Both the Pro and Yard series’ went the full length with the MA Piranhas taking the Pro down and the NY Enemy (aka the Blue Razrs) beating the mighty MA Throwbacks (DOOM + hired guns Russ Heim and Kyle Piazza). The Pro series went as almost all expected, but the Yard series was an upset to beat all upsets. A hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Then came what I had been waiting for since I boarded my plane on Friday afternoon… The Ultimate WIffler. We were all broken up into 6 divisions of 6 players and all had to play each other once in a two inning game. My night did not really go as planned, but enough about me. As pool play started to come to a close and the sun started to disappear behind the desert mountains I found out that when people say that it gets cold in the desert at night that they are not eff’n kidding. By the time 7 o’clock rolled around we were playing in sub 45 degree temperatures… in Vegas! Needless to say, not exactly what I expected.
When round robin play was officially over the pool had been narrowed to 16 players in the Championship bracket and 12 in the consolation bracket. Bracket play had some truly memorable matchups pretty early highlighted by the matchup that everyone wanted to see, Ryan Wood v. Josh Pagano. I could hear Lou’s maniacal laughter from that night in Texas as they took the field. Being two inning games the battle was a short one with Wood coming out on top.
As the dust settled, and the final four was set, the clock was fast approaching 11PM which was rumored to be when the lights would shut off, but no one would believe it. The final four games of Dallas Mall (Mars) v. Sylvie Serrano (CA) and Steve Tzrpis (NV) v. Jim Balian (AZ) were rushed to start and got maybe into the bottom of the first before the prophecy came true… we were suddenly in the pitch dark. As we all shook our heads in disbelief the plans were set to conclude the tournament early the next morning.
When the next morning came around most of us had left to catch our flights, myself included. But the tournament raged on. The final four was narrowed to the final showdown of Dallas v. Jim Balian. Balian took the crown of the Ultimate Wiffler home which is fitting as he was a part of the first team to win an official Fast Plastic NCT. Jim is a hell of a guy and a truly great player and he earned his title going through players like last year’s GSWL Pro MVP Russ Heim.
It may not have come together exactly the way that Lou had envisioned, but he made it happen. Believe it or not he is already talking about next year and how much he’s learned and how much better it will be. A lesser man would have lay down and died.
All I have to say is that it was an absolute blast and I absolutely will be there next year to see the new and improved version.
Thanks again to Nick Benas, Jared Verillo and Jack Caton. Without you I couldn’t have been there.