Wiffleball tournament set for end of July

Through four years, the White Lightning Wiffleball Tournament has become somewhat of a mid-summer fixture in Carson Valley.

"It's really just an opportunity for people to come out and have a good time playing the old backyard game," said tournament founder J.P. Albert. "It's modified baseball and anyone can play."

This year's tournament is at Stodick Park and is scheduled for July 31 and possibly Aug. 1, depending on how many teams register. Albert said if he gets more than eight teams, it will likely be a two-day tournament.

The 'anyone can play' attitude was reinforced last year when the tournament age range was broadened to 13 and older.

"It makes it so high school kids can get right in there and play too," Albert said. "The game is basic enough to where age doesn't make too much of a difference in competition level."

Wiffleball tournaments have grown in popularity across the United States over the last decade with some major tournaments providing up to 30 fields for one tournament. The simple premise, using the famous white plastic ball with air vents and a yellow plastic bat, pits teams on a miniature baseball field for four-on-four contests.

"Every time we do this, we get people saying they can't believe how much fun it is and how they can't wait to tell everyone else to come play the next year," Albert said.

The fields are 80 feet to each foul pole and 100 feet to center field. Basepaths are 40 feet long and the pitcher's circle is 40 feet away from home plate. Teams put one pitcher and three fielders on defense with no catcher.

Instead, the pitcher throws at a strike plate behind home plate, about 2.5 feet tall and 1.5 feet wide. Any ball that is swung at and missed, fouled off or that hits the strike plate is considered a strike. Anything missing the strike plate is a ball.

Teams can have up to six players on a roster but only four bat through the order. They can make substitutions at any point.

Runners can be tagged out by a traditional tag or by throwing the ball at them. The pitcher's circle is also equivalent to first base, in that if the ball is delivered back to the pitcher before the runner can reach first, it is considered an out.

"Over the years, as people start to figure out the rules a bit more, it's become pretty competitive," Albert said. "There are some good-natured rivalries and you see some good strategy. Some of the pitchers that have been there every year have really come along."

By its nature, pitchers hold an advantage in the game, but Albert has taken steps over the years to try to ensure one pitcher can't take over a tournament.

The pitching circle was moved back about seven feet and pitchers were not allowed to pitch entire games, instead being limited to three innings per game (tournament games only last four innings).

"I don't know that we can create a hitter-friendly tournament,' Albert said. "It's tough to hit the ball, especially against guys that can get some good movement on the ball.

"We don't have a lot of high-run ball games. You'll see a lot of one- or two-run games. We did make it, though, so that you can't just ride one pitcher through the whole tournament. It levels out the competition a little bit."

Cost per team is $150, which goes toward field rental and the cost of the equipment.

Registration deadline is July 28. For more information, contact the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Department at 782-9828 or J.P. Albert at 790-1894.


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