The members of local Wiffle ball leagues aren’t just here to socialize.
On a sunny afternoon in Ross Bridge or Bluff Park, you might hear the crack of a bat or an umpire shout “Safe!” But it’s not at a baseball or softball game. It’s Wiffle ball, and if you don’t think the teams from each community take these competitions seriously, you haven’t been to a game yet.
The idea for the community leagues began separately around four years ago. “Our ladies league in Ross Bridge started back in spring 2016 as more of a social league, where anyone who could play would show up and we would draw teams and play a game of wiffle ball,” Holly Chaney says.
After the first season, the interest in the league ramped up, and Ross Bridge developed an official league with teams in spring 2017.
Each competitive team is made up of between 12-15 players. The 2019 teams – the Belles & Wiffles, Baby Got Bats, Wiffle While You Work and Pitchin’ Fits – played a summer season bracket with the Pitchin’ Fits winning the championship.
Parisa Dudley, a player for Belles & Wiffles, says there are many reasons why she plays. “Some say it’s for my love of the game as I played softball from a young age up through high school, but the most important reason that I play is to set an example for my 9-year-old son, who also plays competitive sports in Hoover,” she says. “I still feel like there are good values and life lessons to be learned when playing in a team sport.”
Along with the competitive teams, Ross Bridge still has the social league, now called Social Butterflies, and whoever wants to play on a given afternoon meets and breaks up into teams. “It’s great for ladies who want to play but can’t make the commitment to a team for the season,” Holly says.
On Shades Mountain, another league began to grow in Bluff Park. Holly’s aunt, Sherrie Roberts, and her sons spent many weekend afternoons on the field and playground at the Fresh Air Farm on Park Avenue. “We all love the movies ‘The Sandlot’ and ‘A League of Their Own,’ and it made me wonder, ‘Could we host a Wiffle ball league here?’”
Starting from scratch, Sherrie contacted Catherine Goudreau, director of the Fresh Air Farm, to see what the possibility would be of hosting a league at the Farm. “I thought I’d gauge interest on the Bluff Park United Facebook Group.” The response was a resounding yes. The Bluff Park Women’s Wiffle Ball League hosted its season opener at the Fresh Air Farm in June. Thankfully, Sherrie says several ladies stepped up not only to play but to volunteer. “Kim Barber and Aimee Martin complete the Commission for our league,” she says. And you can’t have a game if you don’t have an umpire, so Bluff Park’s Robin Schultz donned his umpire’s gear for the regular season.
Bluff Park’s league opened with six teams: The Salty Pitches, Pitch Please, Wiffling Dixies, The Wendy Peffercorns, Dunder Wifflin and Diamond Divas. Each team, consisting of 15 members each, also played a bracket season with the Salty Pitches winning the championship. “The players cover a broad range in age from early 20s to late 50s—some athletic and some eager for physical activity, some familiar with the game and some eager to learn,” Sherrie says.
Haley Snowden, who plays for the Wendy Peffercorns, says she joined the league to meet other families in Bluff Park and get some exercise. “I chose to join because it was a way to get more active after having a baby that would be more fun than working out,” she says. “It is really a way to bring people together. It’s fellowship. It could even be an opportunity for outreach. Sunday afternoons have gotten more fun for sure.”
Anna Chatterton says the league reminds her of when she played softball. “I have played softball my whole life, so it really brings me back to that time. I also love playing with people from the community and meeting people from Bluff Park that I didn’t know already.” Anna plays for the Diamond Divas.
Sherrie says the Fresh Air Farm is the perfect setting for Bluff Park’s league. “It is beautiful, downhome and in the heart of Bluff Park. But, truly, once I learned about the charitable work that they do for children and that a league using the facility could include a charitable component, that’s when my enthusiasm kicked into high gear,” she says. “Playing Wiffle ball for fun and getting to know your neighbors is beautiful enough, but add the fact that we can contribute to an institution that’s been in Bluff Park for almost 100 years, and it’s simply magical.”
“When the Bluff Park league took off this year, we thought it would be so much fun to get the teams from both communities together to play each other,” Holly says. Thus, the two leagues established the Hoover Wiffle Crown tournament to be played at the Hoover Sports Park Center. The tournament was also sponsored by Anna Price at Insurance Facilities and Jason Dailey from Realty South.
“We decided to do two games, one game between the champions of each league and an all-star game made up of players from each of the teams that did not make the championship game,” Holly explains. “The tournament is an exciting addition this year because it allows ladies from all the teams to come together and represent their amazing communities.”
The Bluff Park All-Stars beat the Ross Bridge All-Stars in the 2019 Hoover Wiffle Crown All-Star game on Sunday, Aug. 18 by one run, making the final score 24-23.
In the championship game, the No. 1 teams from both neighborhoods’ regular seasons faced each other. Ross Bridge’s Pitchin’ Fits won over Bluff Park’s Salty Pitches. The Pitchin’ Fits took an early lead over the Salty Pitches, finishing with a 29-8 victory.
From season openers to the Hoover Wiffle Crown, the camaraderie and community spirit shines from the “wiffling” ladies. “I have lived in Bluff Park my whole life, and I can’t remember another activity that has brought all walks of life together like this has,” Anna Price says.
“I have met so many amazing ladies through Wiffle ball,” Holly adds. “Some I knew because our kids play sports together or go to the same school; however, playing in the league has allowed us to really get to know one another. Instead of being someone’s mom or a familiar face. We’re friends now.”
Sherrie agrees and also notes how encouraging it is to have so many people pitch in (pun intended). “There have been so many individuals and community businesses volunteering their time, resources and making donations to make this all possible.”