Slow-pitch format gives hitters a chance at World Wiffle Ball Championship

The Skokie Park District is hosting a Wiffle Ball tournament this weekend, and unlike the scores of hapless hitters on YouTube, batters will actually stand a chance.

The World Wiffle Ball Championship will be held on Saturday and Sunday at Channelside Park in Skokie, and it’s a slow-pitch Wiffle Ball tournament.

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“It makes it more strategic about the offense, rather than guys racking up strikeouts and mowing everyone away,” said Chris Wojcik, a Wilmette resident and member of the Pitches Ain’t Hit team.

Wiffle Ball, the baseball-like game played with a perforated plastic ball that dips and curves, comes in two formats. The World Championship bills itself as true Wiffle Ball — slow pitch, classic yellow plastic bats, base running and defense. Other tournaments may use lineball, with fast pitching, aluminum bats and bases determined by how far a batter hits the ball.

“Fast pitch, it’s almost impossible to keep all of those elements — defense, base running — and most tournaments that are fast pitch don’t even try,” said Jim Bottorff, a commissioner of the World Championship. “You get a guy that can really throw hard and fast, it’s almost unhittable. In my view, it’s a much more competitive game played this way.”

The tournament will have 32 teams of five players competing in four games on Saturday. Teams that go at least 3-1 or win their division qualify for Sunday’s tournament. Also, teams that go 2-2 qualify for a quick single-elimination tournament at the end of Saturday for the last spot in Sunday’s games. There are no age or skill level distinctions in the tournament, so players of all ages and genders will play each other.

After 33 years in Mishawaka, Indiana, the Championship moved to Skokie last year. Some of the powerhouse teams, like Funky Plastic Offspring, moved with the tournament. Funky Plastic Offspring is a favorite to win it all this weekend. Mishawaka’s Randy Schuster plays for the team with his father, two brothers and family friend, and they won titles in 2007, 2011 and 2013. Schuster is even a member of the tournament’s Hall of Fame.

While Schuster said that having the tournament in his hometown was great, the move to Skokie has had some pluses. Bottorff said the further away teams still attend (players come in from as far away as Arizona and Massachusetts), and new teams have joined, like Wojcik’s squad did last year.

“It has actually been pretty awesome to see the excitement that comes along with new teams that haven’t been able to experience the tournament before,” Schuster said. “Reminds you about how great the Wiffle Ball tournament, and everyone getting to be a kid again for that weekend, really is.”

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