Play Wiffle Ball! When COVID-19 canceled sports, these teens created a league of their own

One of the teams in the Grass Lot Wiffle Ball League is the Dynamic Ducks.When COVID-19 took the kids out of the ball game, the kids took the game over to the Wiffle Ball field.

Several groups of Bay City teens spent the summer playing Wiffle Ball. They built fields in yards, formed teams, created leagues, and even held a play-off tournament. In August, some of the teams traveled to the Detroit area to take third place in the MLW Wiffle Ball tournament, the MLW Wiffle in the Mitten.

“I expected this summer to be pretty boring with everything canceled, but (Wiffle Ball) gave it a fun little spark,” says Landon Yurgaites, a 14-year-old Western High School freshman.

Trey Flood, a 13-year-old Peace Lutheran 8th grader who lives in Bay City, says Wiffle Ball games gave him the chance to spend time with friends while still following public health guidelines designed to slow the spread of the virus.

One of the teams in the Grass Lot Wiffle Ball League is the Westside Wiffles.“I just like hanging out with my friends and being able to do that while being able to stay socially distant,” Trey says.

While Wiffle Ball took on new importance this summer, Landon, Trey, and Trey’s brother, Braxton Flood, 16, were fans of the sports long before the pandemic forced the cancellation of most summer events, says Trey and Braxton’s mom, Deb Arnst.

“When the pandemic hit, my older son was just finishing up high school basketball season and Trey was playing travel basketball and everything just, boom, stopped,” Arnst says. “At first it was a nice rest, but it was a big letdown over time for kids who are used to being busy and active.”

In the early days of the pandemic, the family kept their distance from everyone. As the weather warmed, though, the neighborhood kids started gathering at a simple backyard Wiffle Ball field the family built One of the teams in the Grass Lot Wiffle Ball League is the Curving Catfish.about 5 years ago. The field consisted of bases and not much more. Through the summer, though, Trey made improvements. He added snow fence and contacted area businesses to find sponsors.

Playing ball gave the kids a sense of normalcy and helped replace some of what they lost when schools closed and activities were canceled, Arnst says.

“It gave them a chance to just be kids like when you and I grew up,” Arnst says. “We didn’t have organized sports to go to. It let them be with the kids in the neighborhood again and play in the backyard and use their imaginations. They came up with their own thing. There weren’t parents putting it altogether. I thought that was really cool to see.”

Landon agrees that Wiffle Ball made the summer fun. “I think it made it a lot better,” Landon says. “It was a fun way for all of us to have fun One of the teams in the Grass Lot Wiffle Ball League is Arnold & Sautter.and hang out with each other.”

Parents and grandparents gathered to watch the outdoor games while keeping open spaces between the families, he says.

Arnst says she appreciates the game is fun for people of all different skill levels.

“Wiffle Ball is something you don’t have to be a great athlete or an athlete to play. Anybody can play it,” Arnst says. “Landon and Trey have gotten very competitive with it and have taken it to a higher level. That has been a true blessing over time.”

After this summer, Landon says he has a new appreciation for the intricacies of planning a schedule. He formed the Grass Lot Wiffle Ball League for four teams, the Dynamic Ducks, West Side Wiffles, Curving Catfishes, and Arnold & Sautter. Landon scheduled games every Monday and Friday. In the end, he even planned a tournament. The Dynamic Ducks won the tournament.

He hopes to return to organized sports this summer, but still wants to carve out time for Wiffle Ball.

“I plan on trying to do it next year, however I can do it,” Landon says. “It’ll obviously be a little bit busier than this year. Hopefully I can find a way to schedule it around everything.”

Playing on the league this summer taught Trey more than a love of a new sport. He says he learned to branch out and talk to new people. “You don’t know what could happen. If I would have never talked to Landon, then maybe none of this would have happened,” Trey says.

“I just loved it so much this summer,” Trey says. “It was so much fun, so I definitely think I’ll be sticking with it. It allowed me personally to make a lot of friends. Really, really good memories came with it.”

 

 

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