Each year on the second weekend in July people from all over converge on the small town of Ligonier, Pa., to celebrate America’s great backyard pastime—wiffle ball.
The Wiffle Ball Bonanza (WBB) is the brainchild of RMU senior Zachary Freeman. Back in 2008, Freeman, a transfer student and sport management major, went to a two-on-two basketball tournament and had a great time. Wanting to do something similar, he and some friends came up with an idea for a wiffle ball tournament. “We ended up building an actual field and everything,” says Freeman. “It was our ‘Kevin Costner’ moment.”
The first Wiffle Ball Bonanza in 2008 only had four teams. The next year Freeman did it again for his graduation party, had t-shirts made, and worked with his dad to improve the field. As a result, they had 36 participants and for the first time the champions received an official champions’ trophy. Eventually he generated more interest through Facebook and got sponsors for the event. They also made further improvements to the field, adding a fence, foul poles, bleachers, and bases. “I know it sounds ridiculous for wiffle ball,” says Freeman, “but McGliney Park is a legitimate stadium.”
Freeman, who had an internship for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon last November through this May, says things “really started coming together” in 2010. It was around that time that he thought about doing something good with the tournament. Being a juvenile diabetic himself, he decided to make it an annual fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In 2011, they raised $800. Last year the tournament brought in $1,500.
“It’s amazing how much the Wiffle Ball Bonanza has grown in six short years,” says Freeman. “This year a record 75 people will take the field. Without the support of family, friends, and all of its sponsors, the WBB would not be able to happen. I am grateful for all those who take a genuine interest in this great event.” ~
Written by Valentine J. Brkich
The 2013 Wiffle Ball Bonanza is this Saturday, July 13. Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30. For more information, visit www.wiffleballbonanza.com