The NJWA was founded in 1990 by me (Mike Palinczar) and Fred Bastedo in attempt to bring competitive Wiffle®Ball to our home state of New Jersey. Since Trenton was the capital of New Jersey, centrally located and our home town, we figured it would work out nice for all players across the state and we were right. Since the inception of the NJWA, over 1,000 teams have made the trip to Trenton to play in some of the best tournaments the game has to offer.
As a child I began playing Wiffle®Ball in my backyard like many of us do. I had an oversized backyard and many of the kids from the neighborhood would come to my house and play Wiffle®Ball all summer long. As I got older, unlike many guys, I continued to play well into my teens with my close friends from the neighborhood. Although we thought we were pretty good at the game, we never expected what lied ahead of us the in next few years to come.
In 1989, I saw an article in Sports Illustrated about a Wiffle®Ball World Series in Boston, MA and contacted the President of the World Wiffle®Ball Assoc. Rick Ferroli. That year the Trenton
Giants were formed with my close friends and we made the trip to Boston and finished 10th in the nation as 17 yr olds. On the way back from Boston, I had the idea that if it can work in Boston it can work in Trenton and the NJWA was born.
The spring of 1990 was a busy year for me, Freddy and my father Victor Palinczar. We set out to rebuild an old playground around the corner from my house on Adeline Street in South Trenton, a place I was familiar with as a youngster. If we, the NJWA, were going to run a tournament, my backyard would no longer be big enough, so the park down the street was perfect. It took about eight weeks to complete and Pat Pone Playground was now the first official asphalt Wiffle®Ball field in America, complete with lights for night games and bleachers. I contacted The Wiffle Ball, Inc. that year and introduced myself to the founder of the game, David N. Mullany. Although I was still a young man, I told him my plans for the game and he wished me luck.
That summer I sent out press releases to local newspapers in an attempt to find teams for the NJWA’s first summer league. I wasn’t sure what to expect and to my surprise 22 teams jumped at the gun. I also hosted New Jersey’s tournament, dubbed The Summer Showdown. The World Wiffle®Ball Assoc. in Boston was so impressed with our field and quick progress that it granted us two entries to Boston that year for our winners.
As teams poured into Pat Pone playground, many of them were unprepared for a Pro-Style type of game and were using the yellow Wiffle®Ball bats. The players saw my home made custom bats and loved the feel of an adult size lightweight bat for the game. They also loved the way the bats crushed the ball at record distances. This gave me the idea of mass producing the custom bats and selling them. The NJWA now had its first product and T-Shirts shortly followed.
The NJWA continued its success in running tournaments and its league until 1993 when a lack of players and teams halted play until 1995. The
World Wiffle®Ball Assoc. also folded and it was hard for all the players that year. I call the summer of 1993 and 1994 the longest summers of my life. Despite the lack of play I still maintained a good reputation in the “Wiffle®Ball World” with connections in Boston and abroad. I was contacted many of times by guys just like me, wanting to start and Association or tournament. One of the most persistent was Kevin Pressiman. I encouraged Kevin to start the North American Wiffle®Ball Championship and it worked well for him as they based their rules and format using the NJWA’s layout.As Kevin worked out the kinks in Ohio, I gathered up the old buddies in once again in 1995, with Freddy, my cousin Mike Soltesz, Dan Cryan and Teddy Merias and formed Team Trenton in a plan to make the trip out west and enjoy the thing I loved most, playing the game of Wiffle®Ball. I also contacted my old friend Jerome Coyle, aka. The Ledge, a great player I met in Boston during the World Wiffle®Ball Assoc. years. Jerry had his aluminum bat thing still going on, an idea he had while playing in Boston. I convinced Jerry to round a team up and make the trip to Cincinnati and our friendship was rekindled.
Also in1997, while playing in Colebrook, CT, I met the LoCascio brothers, Tom and Frank, they were called In the Box. We bonded instantly and as Team Trenton separated they were a perfect match for me and Fred and in 1998, Tri-State Terror was born, along with Chuck Walsh from Yardley, PA.
The year of 1998 was probably the biggest year of events for the NJWA and me. I contacted The Wiffle Ball, Inc. once again and this time I had everyone’s ear with a “New Idea” The USWA (United States Wiffle®Ball Assoc.). Yardball had failed due to MLB’s greed, however the Mullany's obviously saw a huge market for the game, MLB was getting over 200 teams a tournament, so they decided to sit down with me. Since 1990 they new my name and it kept coming up, year after year along with all the progress the NJWA had made. I maintained a good relationship with the Mullany’s and with that being said they gave me their stamp of approval for the USWA. The USWA idea never took off, it was something, at the time, I was unable to work out, but the format and ideas were the guide and backbone of the USPPBA and the current Fast Plastic.
That year I also designed a new bat called the Wiffle®Pro Black Magic which was the first change to a Wiffle®Ball
bat in 40 years. The Mullanys approved the Wiffle®Pro and it became the first Official aluminum Wiffle®Ball bat. The Adeline Bat Company was formed (Adeline for the Street I grew up on) and was the distributor for the Wiffle®Pro.
In 1998 I met another Wiffle®Ball enthusiast from Connecticut by the name of Mike Alessie. Mike was a marketing genius and was different from all other organizers. Mike ran Wiffle®Up and was the President of Diamond Sports. Wiffle®Up was an eight state traveling tournament that drew a lot of good teams; however they still used the yellow bats, which was a problem for me and many of the more competitive players. In 1999 the first Wiffle®Pro bats hit the market and Mike allowed them to be used in Wiffle®Up. The teams started to pile in due to the rule changes (bats) and expansion of tournaments. Wiffle®Up grew tremendously and is now in twelve states and attracts over 600 teams a year as most of the players swing the Black Magic.
In 2000, I finally got a chance to make the trip to Glendale, AZ to meet Mike Gregory face to face. That year I played in the Wiffle®Ball World Series and promoted the Wiffle®Pro. Although Freddy couldn't make the trip, I was stacked with Tommy LoCascio and an old friend I met in Cincinnati, Billy “The gun” Owens and his girlfriend Danni. We managed to pull off an amazing upset of two time champ, the Hard Drives and no victory had been more satisfying for me. In 2001 the Wiffle®Ball World Series adopted the Black Magic as its official bat.
Also in 2000 another major event took place for The Wiffle Ball, Inc. The owner of the domain name wiffleball.com was ready to sell since the Cincinnati era was over. I was contacted immediately to purchase the domain name. Although I had first crack at the best domain name anyone could ask for and knew the NJWA's future could have been changed forever with wiffleball.com, I knew right where it belonged, in Shelton, CT. I made the call personally to David Mullany, Sr. who in return was quick to purchase the name in which he still owns today along with wiffle.com.
As Tri-State Terror was racking up titles in Wiffle®Up, NJWA events and beyond from 1998 to 2000, the players decided to go their own way and there were no hard feelings. In-the-Box was once again formed by Tom and Frank. Fred and I hooked up with Greg Ryan to once again form the Trenton Giants.
As some rules and faces have changed going into the new millennium the NJWA has remained the same with many of its original faces. We have expanded to 13 fields and still attract almost 100 teams a year for both of our events in the Summer Showdown and Wiffle®Fest. The Black Magic is now a standard name in the Wiffle®Ball world and teams love coming out to the legendary Pat Pone playground every summer to play in one of the best tournaments on the best field.