By Joshua Hart
Hey everyone. As our nation faces an international pandemic, stares down the barrel of a severe economic recession, and gears up for the most important Civil Rights movement in this country since the 60’s, it means there is only one thing to talk about. Midwestern, backyard wiffle ball! Can you feel the energy??
I am back, and a week late this time! Apparently, Circle City Wiffle Ball league commissioner Brendan Dudas was simply too busy working on his seventh 2K myPlayer build from March through May to reach out and plan this article with me. The league delayed opening day for crying out loud! I should simmer down though. No one had any extra free time on their hands the past few months to read about upcoming summer events, so publishing a season preview after the season started in June was the best logistical option.
So once again, I have risen from my one-bedroom Mishawaka apartment to write this article for 16 people. I dream one day I will be able to get out of writing this due to a backpacking trip in New Zealand or some kind of exotic honeymoon with my future wife. Unfortunately, 2020 was not having it. Until then...
It seems from an outsider's perspective that sweeping changes were not a major focus of the league this offseason. In 2019, it was about rebranding a league for a wider audience with slick social media accounts and an increased effort to improve team and field quality. Sure, there’s been some tinkering to team names and rosters in 2020. However, it appears CCW may be exiting the developmental stage of league building and entering into a more stable, consistent production. Hopefully you realize that bouquet of words was code for Josh did not actually care to research if any changes happened or not. It sounds eloquent though!
Alright, alright...I do believe there is a new rule that allows hitters after earning a walk to make a decision between receiving soft pitches to hit (any strike and the batter is out) or simply taking the earned walk. The hope is to add an element of decision-making the league has not seen before, deter pitchers from throwing around quality hitters, and spike the amount of home runs in an average game. I wish I had a joke here...seems like a cool rule. Let’s give credit to Cody House for this one. He certainly is not the kind of guy I would make a queso quip about.
8 Balls - Ugh, these guys again. Look, they are really good (62-15 and two titles in three years of league play), and they might just become the first dynasty in league history. With the roster returning intact, the 8 Balls had to look for other challenges to overcome this offseason such as finding a way to improve team uniforms, which they didn’t. Once again, the squad is led almost entirely by the Sr/Jr duo of Mike Speek. While Sr. is quickly heading towards becoming the first player in CCW history with an AARP membership, Jr. might just be entering his prime, which is terrifying for the rest of the league. Joining the Speek’s per usual is jar of mayonnaise Zach McFarland and Connor Morris, a hostage of the Speek family. Blink twice if you want to play for another team Connor!
Short Shorts - Ahh yes, the team that cares more about its’ Twitter account than actual performance on the field. Despite their status as a consistent title contender, this organization has sneakily regressed since the departure of...guess who? Me! A 2015 title and 2017 runner-up performance were the peaks of this franchise. After my exit in 17, the team has not returned to a championship series. There are no other possible explanations for this. And if there are, I have no intentions to listen to them.
The SS are again led by commissioner Dudas. A regular in the MVP discussion, he tops pretty much everyone’s list for league player that’s the most enjoyable to watch struggle. With the influx of quality pitching across the league for the 2020 season, one can only hope. Returning to the Shorts is prodigal son Keegan Caughey, who was viciously terminated in a Red Wedding level betrayal from the Moonshots by dear friend and former roommate Blake Voris. Caughey claims to be prepared to go on a “revenge tour” of sorts in 2020. With his 31 walks and 4 home runs in 2019 in mind, opposing teams are absolutely terrified at the raw power an angry Caughey will bring to the table.
The team is rounded out with Dylan Jones who I’m not even sure is playing, Jake Sprinkle (hahahahaha his last name is Sprinkle), local hippie Taylor Dehart, and Aidan Palmer, a kid I worry is dangerously close to buying Supreme t-shirts.
Moonshots - Coming off an extremely disappointing 2019 season that saw the Moonshots go 5-13, changes had to be made by the previously mentioned team manager Blake Voris, a man passionately committed to wearing his watches. One of these major shake ups included bringing over Reid Werner and Will Smithey from the shutdown Hounds organization, who were #1 and #3 in total strikeouts during the 2019 season, respectfully. The group fills out with a couple of B+ players that have probably seen their best days already go by them in Tyler Gregory and Austin Church. Similar to three-day old leftovers you have for lunch on Wednesday, expect the Moonshots to leave you with a sense of disappointment and despair throughout the 2020 season.
Noodlers - Just like the seasonal flu and Converse Chucks, the Noodlers find a way to be relevant each and every year. This time around, the roster is constructed with a 2016 championship-level team that includes the aforementioned Cody House, great dad Sawyer Mitchell, and the always serious Jordan Tackett (whose wedding I crashed, but that’s a story for another day). The secret sauce that might actually produce a title is one Caleb Jonkman, a star on the national wiffle circuit who decided it was worth commuting to Indy to play wiffle ball with players that have personalities and lives. Consistent attendance from Jonkman will be critical to the Noodlers contending status.
Yakkers - The Yakkers BS’d their way to a title appearance despite a forgettable 12-9 record in 2019. These guys seem like the Houston Rockets of CCW, always around to make things more competitive, but no one is actually threatened by them. This group is led by unseasoned potato Rudy Lyon, and a bunch of other forgettable, pasty white dudes. The one interesting thing about this bunch is the addition of Ryan Voges, who I believe is really good, but once again do not care to clarify that assumption. Similar to Jonkman, sources tell me he is not a resident of central Indiana so week-by-week status of Voges playing could be an issue.
Pork Pistols - Allegedly, the Pork Pistols are the fun, “wild” group that actually has female friends. I was wildly disappointed in 2019 when I heard zero reports of arrests, brawls, or other extremely devious behavior by them. Part of me wonders if they are just another group of basic dudes who drink beer and talk a big game, but end up going to bed at 10:30 every night after watching reruns of NCIS. I want to take this space to personally challenge them to be better (or is it worse?) this season. Circle City needs it. Scandal is the quickest way to new audience members online.
As far as wiffle goes, they have some players. Christian Leffler is good. They won’t win the title, and they won’t finish last.
Hackers - It appears the Hackers believed this was going to be a basketball league as their roster boasts 7(!) players. I certainly hope they all enjoy their 2 at-bats per game. The Hackers are led by a man with the tiniest nipples I have ever seen in Michael Plourde, a player who has a genuine heart of gold and a wiffle ball skill set that mirrors TJ McConnell. Plourde is joined by Holden Palmer, someone who certainly says, “I don’t care, where do you want to go?” every time he’s asked to pick a restaurant for dinner. Tucker Carlson fan and guy who doesn’t look great in sunglasses Spencer Schreindeir also returns as a force to be vaguely reckoned with. The other players on the Hackers I’m sure have fun personalities and stories to share.
Outlaws - I do not even know if this team exists or Dudas put it into the website to screw with me. Let’s roll with them being an expansion team. Welcome to the league, and congrats on being single! If you do anything of relevance (you won’t) in the 2020 season, I will donate $20 to the charity of your choice. Good luck.
MVP: Mike Speek Jr.
Cy Young: Christian Leffler (Pork Pistols)
Silver Slugger: Brendan Dudas (Short Shorts)
Rookie of the Year: Caleb Jonkman (Noodlers)
Defensive Player of the Year: Per tradition, someone who tries way too hard
Championship: Noodlers over 8 Balls
Most Likely To’s
Look the worst post-quarantine: Taylor Dehart
Break any concept of social distancing immediately: Everyone in the league
Leave for 15 minutes to get something in their car: Holden Palmer
Destroy his body attempting to run through the Dirtyard fence: James Hayworth
Choose to take his base after ball four to “protect his OBP”: Spencer Schneider
Bring up wiffle ball on a date: Rudy Lyon
Attempt to sell you on the value of Bitcoin based on one article they read: Aaron Rogers
Have gained 10 lbs but somehow still look pretty darn good: Tyler Gregory
Not do anything impressive or noteworthy: Everyone on the Outlaws
Say he’s a “coach only” after his first bad game: Blake Voris
Wear a ridiculous hat: Cody House
Make himself impossible to dislike with really pleasant conversation: Mike Speek Sr.
Have the most in-game arguments: Austin Church and Brendan Dudas
Show up for no reason: Dakota Rogers
Blow up on someone about the 2020 election: Keegan Caughey
Argue to change the rules back once they realize they still suck: Pork Pistols