The Thwack of the Bat

June 1993 New Jersey Monthly/ June 1993 By- Jim Waltzer

The white sphere hissed and levitates as it speeds toward home plate. At the last possible second, it nose-dives into oblivion, leaving a befuddled batter swiping at air. Is it Roger Clemens curveball? A supersonic spirit? No, just a typical moment for the New Jersey Wiffle®Ball Association, a group of twentysomethings who have adapted the national pastime, the ball might be plastic, but the emotions are big-league.

“This is not a kid’s game; this is serious business,” says Mike Palinczar, president of the association, which is in it's third season and looking to expand. Wiffle®Ball, of course, that game of the aerated ball and the lighter-than-air bat. Traditionally, it is played in backyards and row-house neighborhoods, where broken windows result if heavier equipment is used. There is no baserunning in this association, only hitting and fielding. A ball must travel 45 feet to qualify as a hit. Three fielders, including the pitcher, try to spear batted balls. Hit the ball to the fence on a fly, and you have a double. Clear it (100 feet to dead center), and it's a home run.

The New Jersey teams play on a converted basketball court at Patrick Pone Playground in Trenton. Removable snow fencing serves as the outfield wall. The city installed cement bleachers, donated the paint, and put on a new layer of asphalt. The teams hail from Central Jersey, sporting names like the Trenton Milkmen, Mercerville Braves, Goats Galore and Wo Nelly's. Next month, the league will hold it's annual All-Star game; in August, the strongest teams will compete in the World Series, staged by their World Wiffle®Ball Association, which is based near Boston. Series games take place in a replica of Feway Park-turf, Green Monster and all.

“On a hot summer night, it's the thing to do,” says Palinczar. “Our fans range from little kids to kids in their seventies.” For more information, contact the New Jersey Wiffle®Ball Association at (609-771-8057).

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