I don’t often wax patriotic, but this is a subject that might get me there. It has two fine attractions:
1. I love that you can play this game in your backyard with just one or two kids. (I only have 2 boys around, after all.)
2. The original Wiffle bat and ball are well made. I like things that are made right, and work.
I’ve owned plenty of plastic bats and balls (all imports, I’m sure), and I’ve made the mistake of calling them all “wiffleballs.” In my defense, it had been years since I’d played with a real Wiffle bat and ball.
Last spring, though, I realized my boys were too big to hit real baseballs in the back yard without taking the screens off our back porch. I also thought (hoped?) they were big enough for a thinner plastic bat. (They tried swinging their aluminum bats at plastic “practice” balls from Walmart, but those things shattered on the first solid hit.) I had a faint memory of a better ball, one that obeyed its own peculiar laws of motion. My wife asked me what I’d want if she and the boys got me something for Father’s Day. And this is what came to mind.
Who knew? This became the highlight of my summer, my days off, my late afternoons while the grill was smoking. First, the ball actually does “wiffle” when you throw it. (The company website claims it’s named after how many ‘wiffs’ it produces; that’s possible, but I like my idea better.) Add to that: you can feel right away it’s well made, with thick, flexible plastic.
Second, even better, the ball really does obey its own peculiar laws. I won’t give away any secrets (as if I had any!), but I can imitate a knuckle ball, a curve ball, breaking balls to both sides of the plate, and screwy pitches that dive as they curve, moving from a person’s shoulder to their feet while moving from the inside corner to a foot outside. For a person who loves baseball and never achieved any great skill at it, this is cheating of the most pleasurable kind.
Meanwhile, my kids can throw this thing fast enough that I’ve been known to strike out. It doesn’t hurt that they’re less than twelve feet away. But it’s also the thin yellow bat — you know the one, you’ve seen it in the store. You have to really focus.
(Which is another thing. My son doesn’t strike out much now with a real ball and bat. He’s used to finding a screwball with a thin yellow bat. Now the baseball looks like a meatball.)
Hours of enjoyment; moments of incredible satisfaction (“Did you see that curveball?!”); good outdoor exercise; and a fine approximation to America’s Pastime. What more could you want for $4.29?
I realize this sounds like a cross between an over-eager Amazon review and a nostalgic baseball fan’s daydream, but it can’t be helped. The good folks at “The WIFFLE Ball, Inc.” deserve a shout-out.
What about you? Remember the joys of the original, real wiffle?
- 39 Ways You Know You’re A True Wiffleballer (buzzfeed.com)