Wiffle ball championship swings into Skokie
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:44AM
Bill Schmidt remembers playing Wiffle ball as a boy, and years later he is still competing in the baseball-inspired game.
The Skokie Park District’s superintendent of business now will have full-time access to the batter’s box as the longest-running Wiffle ball tournament in the United States makes its permanent home at Skokie’s Channelside Park after more than three decades in Indiana.
“Everybody played as a kid — in the street or in the driveway,” said Schmidt, who participated in the now-defunct National Wiffle Ball Tournament in Skokie from 2008 through 2012. “(The tournament) was always a fun day. You still act like you’re 12, and you go out and see how well you can do. The next day’s not so much fun, because you’re using muscles you don’t use much. But it’s fun to play, and that’s why I do it.”
The World Wiffle Ball Championship had been held in Mishawaka, Ind., since its inception in 1980. The decision to shift the event to Skokie came after the family services agency that sponsored the event in Mishawaka opted out following a corporate takeover, according to Jim Bottorff, a member of the World Wiffle Ball Commission who has overseen both the national tournament and the world championship.
Bottorff, the communications and marketing manager for the Skokie Park District, spearheaded the world championship’s permanent move to Skokie.
“There was no one else available to run it in Indiana, so they moved it back to me,” Bottorff said. “We have the facility, and all the structure was in place here for nationals already.”
Channelside Park houses 12 Wiffle ball fields, each with 6-foot-tall chain-link fences that separate home runs from fly outs.
“Being in an urban setting makes it a little more visible,” said Bottorff, who also still plays the game. “I think there’s potential over a few years to become bigger than it’s ever been. It grew from eight teams to 20, and then up to 64 in the early 2000s. It’s been sitting at about 50 ever since.
“The appeal is something that almost anyone of any age can get out and do it. We get 12-year-old kids, guys in their 60s, and 18- to 30-year-olds at the highest level, where it’s really athletic. It’s just complete fun — a blast to play.
“The park district supports it, and we’re glad to have it,” Bottorff said.
The inaugural tournament in Skokie is set for June 29 and 30. Registration runs through June 7. For more information, visit worldwiffleball.org or call Bottorff at 847-929-7171.