By MARK MAYNARD
ASHLAND — Not even our own Green Monster could keep the wiffle ball in the yard Saturday afternoon.
Seventy-nine home runs went flying out of a makeshift field – complete with the aforementioned Monstah – during the inaugural Big Sandy Superstores AmyforAfrica.com Wiffle Ball Tournament at Unity Baptist Church.
And they weren’t just home runs.
Some of them were downright majestic home runs.
Eventual champion L-Train – Rob and Ryan Lynch and Adam LaLonde - proved to be a home run machine. They must have combined for 40 of them.
Not even the Maynard knuckler could keep their bats silent although my team – the Prokicker.com Original Orange Slush – finished a respectable second place. My team was a little makeshift, with Greg Jackson and Roger “Boom Boom” Doss for half the day (Roger had a surprise birthday party) and sportswriters Aaron Snyder and Kyle Hobstetter the second half (picked up after their team was eliminated).
The 3-on-3 games did what I hoped it would do. It created excitement and nostalgia while providing a fun way to make money for the amyforafrica.com cause. Nearly $2,000 will be collected for the fundraising effort for missions in Moya, Uganda, including money from three donors who said they would pay $1 for every home run hit in the tournament.
They probably didn’t expect 79 and neither did I.
Home runs came from the very old (me and Greg Jackson) to the very young (12-year-old Caleb Keelin launched a pair). Chick-fil A operator Steve Barfield carried his team far with several home runs, including a couple of walkoffs. Sam Beason blasted a call-your-shot walkoff home run over The Monster. Fisherman Russ Crawford showed he could cast a wiffle ball deep, too, and Clay Wofford belted four home runs in a row during one stretch.
Our own Independent team – Snyder, Hobstetter and Adam VanKirk – combined for 10 home runs (make it 11 with my solo shot). Snyder and Hobstetter connected for four apiece. Attorney John Vincent went Yard, too, with a line shot over The Monster. So many home runs, so much fun.
Nineteen teams participated at $30 a pop and the sidelot of the church took on a carnival atmosphere.
The crowds were large and loud as the corner of 29th Street and Blackburn Avenue became an attention-grabbing scene. We’re glad nobody had any fender-benders and only one car was hit by a fouled wiffle ball (sorry Dana). There was plenty of honking from folks who simply wished they were out there being kids again.
L-Train was dropped into the loser’s bracket by Chick fil-A’s amazing comeback from a 6-0 deficit in their first game. But L-Train blasted its way through the loser’s bracket and beat the Orange Slush twice by 1-0 scores (the knuckler kept them mostly in the park).
LaLonde was the MVP although the Lynches made mom and dad (Bob and Jo Etta) proud from their seats in right field. The family stayed all day and the tournament went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
L-Train was a worthy champion (as predicted, you may recall, by The Swami earlier last week). My prediction of Amy Compston’s team being one not to watch? Uh, yes, right on again. They failed to score in two games, including a seven-inning extra inning affair in the tournament opener.
It was so much fun I’d do it again next weekend if I weren’t so sore.
There was no bickering and no bad sportsmanship but there was a whole lot of fun. That was the name of the game. And, I have to tell you, it’s still fun hitting a home run in wiffle ball – even at the age of 55.
The biggest winner was the mission cause. Saturday’s donations pushed the total past the $20,000 mark with two months remaining before Amy Compston runs a 50-mile ultra marathon on Nov. 2.
We had a marathon day of our own Saturday, complete with some memory-jarring home runs.
I bet we’ll have them standing in line to play next year.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.