By David Kimball
Baseball has long been dubbed “America”s favorite pastime.” Children of all ages have dreamed of staring down a pitcher and hitting a walk-off home run. Those dreams have become realities in backyard whiffle ball games.
Sadly, those dreams rarely last because little league baseball ends, knees get old and weak, and whiffle ball games in the backyard are replaced by jobs, spouses and responsibility.
For all those who still yearn for another at-bat or another chance to throw a no-hitter, there is good news. Whiffle ball is back, and is back with a vengeance.
“I play whiffle ball because it”s something I can be good at,” two-year whiffle ball tournament veteran, Tyler Unsicker, said. “Now that I”m out of high school, I have found something I can be competitive in.”
Fast Plastic is an organization that lauds itself for being the “leader of the fastest growing sport in the nation,” whiffle ball. The organization operates over 100 tournaments across the nation in 18 regions to qualify teams for the National Whiffle Ball Championship. Last year”s championship prize was $10,000 and this year”s will be $20,000.
Rob Hertzler is Utah”s regional director for Fast Plastic qualifying tournaments. He got his start after a friend told Hertzler that he had played in a whiffle ball tournament in California and Hertzler began a search for tournaments in Utah.
“I looked around and found Fast Plastic and told them I”d be happy to start it up here,” Hertzler said.
The rest is history. Last year was the first year that Fast Plastic tournaments were held in Utah and a total of 12 teams participated. This year, only five teams have participated, but hopes are high that many more will get involved.
Unsicker is known as one of the best switch hitters in the Utah region and has played on more than one team. Hertzler calls Unsicker one of the best ambassadors whiffle ball has in Utah because he”s brought friends, family and a number of teams to the Fast Plastic events.
In the last tournament, newcomer Hayden Seeley struck out twice in the same inning against one of Unsicker”s recruits and his little brother, Brayden.
“His stuff was nasty, man,” Seeley said. “What can I say?”
When asked about what it takes to win a whiffle ball tournament, Seeley was blunt.
“You might want to ask somebody who”s actually accomplished that,” Seeley said. “Ask the 13-year-old, [Brayden].”
Even though 30-year-old Seeley was embarrassed by his performance, he still counted the outing as a learning experience for the next tournament and is excited to play in the future.
“Why do you breath, why do you smile?” Seeley responded when asked why he plays whiffle ball. “It”s whiffle ball, man, come on. Who doesn”t play whiffle ball?”
Those who have won tournaments say that pitching is the key.
“If you know the basics of pitching, you can be competitive at whiffle ball,” Hertzler said. “But it helps to be a good hitter too.”
Hertzler said that people of all ages participate in Fast Plastic whiffle ball. Women have generally not participated, but are not prohibited from playing. Hertzler said he”d love to get anyone out to the tournaments he can.
Next tournament: June 24, 2006
Where: Rotary Park in Provo. Why: It”s whiffleball, man.
Contact: Rob Hertzler at (801)-787-5195 or visit fastplastic.net.