LIANE HANSEN, host:
For those who prefer outdoor games to word games, consider Wiffle Ball. It used to be a backyard sport for kids, but in recent years, the game played with the plastic bat and a ball pocked with holes has become trendy. Now it's a sport for grownups with uniforms, a national tournament and official rules. In rural Milesburg, Pennsylvania, Wiffle Ball has always been in style and the players have their own rules, thank you. Cynthia Berger reports from the sidelines of the Milesburg Wiffle Ball Tournament.
(Soundbite of Wiffle ball game)
CYNTHIA BERGER reporting:
On a recent Saturday at Milesburg Community Park, the playing field's usually reserved for T-ball or swarming with 20-something guys in mismatched muscle shirts. There were three Wiffle ball games going on at once, with Team Blazer, named for the car, favored to win even though they'd had a couple close games.
Mr. PRESTON CRESIVITCH(ph) (Wiffle Ball Player): Pulled them both out, luckily. We're getting beat here. So a bunch of young kids, 18, you know? That was us six years ago.
BERGER: Preston Cresivitch is captain of the Blazers. He looks about 18 but he's in his mid-20s. He came back from his new job in Maryland just for this tournament.
(Soundbite of applause)
BERGER: The guys on the Blazers have been playing Wiffle Ball together since they were kids.
Mr. CRESIVITCH: We all went to the same high school and we've just kept in contact out of high school. And a few of us lived together, went to Penn State together.
BERGER: The Blazers kept up their Wiffle Ball tradition in college. The back yard of their rented house made an excellent playing field.
Mr. CRESIVITCH: If it was a nice day, you know, we'd all would skip classes and go play some home run derby.
Unidentified Person: Whoo!
BERGER: When he moved to Maryland, Cresivitch was surprised to find that Wiffle Ball isn't part of his new neighborhood's local tradition.
Mr. CRESIVITCH: The few people I talked to don't even really know what it was and, you know, I just got, like, dumb looks, you know? Like, we play softball, too. I couldn't even find a Wiffle Ball or bat. I went to Dick's and Wal-Mart and neither one of them had anything. I was kind of shocked, really.
BERGER: The tournament, sponsored by the Milesburg Lions, grew out of a family tradition--Sunday ball at Uncle Mike's hunting camp.
Unidentified Man #1: We have a big lawn out there, so we started playing Wiffle Ball every Sunday up there and decided it was--it'd be interesting to see if we could really put together a tournament and how the interest would be. We weren't sure how that would work, and it turned out there's a lot of interest in this game.
BERGER: A lot of local interest. Eighteen teams signed up to play this year, but Mike Cresivitch says the trendy new teams turn up their noses because Milesburg plays by baseball rules, not official Wiffle Ball rules.
Unidentified Man #1: Travel all over the state and out of the state to play in tournaments, but they just won't try ours out because they said they just--you know, it's not real Wiffle Ball, they call it. And we say it is and our Wiffle Ball, so it works out nice for us. We aren't going to change it.
Unidentified Man #2: Go, go, go!
Unidentified Woman: Go! Go!
BERGER: At the end of the day, the Milesburg Lions had raised $1,200 for charity. The Blazers had lost to the young guys from Fisher's Auto Center, but the Blazers were cool.
Unidentified Man #3: Good job, Larry. Hey, you did your job.
BERGER: They'll be back next year because there's just something about Wiffle Ball.
(Soundbite of applause)
BERGER: For NPR News, I'm Cynthia Berger in State College, Pennsylvania.
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