(AARON EISENHAUER ~email@example.com)
About 100 players and spectators, mostly in their 20s, went to the second annual Justin Osborne All-American Wifflefest on Saturday at the Richard Martin Tree Farm in Gordonville.
Ten coed teams of five to seven players each engaged in a five-inning-per-match, double-elimination tournament on dual fields. Osborne, the founder of Wifflefest, insisted that not a lot of talent is involved in the event, which extended well into the evening, but team members, wearing game faces and matching T-shirts, showed up intent on winning.
"I've been practicing five to six hours a day in my back yard," Nick Centanni said while he was in the batter's box Saturday. Centanni, representing Robbie's Rebels, received the Silver Slugger Award last year for his .800 on-base average.
Roger Brown, now a Wifflefest hall-of-famer, was the only one who hit the ball into the pond over the outfield in 2006.
"It's in the technique, but I can't tell my secrets or else people will use them against me next year," Brown said. A section of the outfield is now called Big Brown Land. While Brown remains humble about his home run, he accomplished a feat that is hard to duplicate, like when Babe Ruth called his hit. The wind has to be just right.
The walls in the outfield are made of wooden freight pallets leftover from Osborne Office Equipment, Osborne's family business in Cape Girardeau.
The field, which is about regulation size for Little League, has taped-off zones that equal base hits when the ball lands in them. Running around the bases is not necessary, though the players did it for the sake of keeping score.
Pitches are thrown slowly and must hit the strike zone -- that is, the ball has to hit a plastic lawn chair behind home plate.
The Tortugas, a team consisting of five women and one man, had individual theme songs played and random facts announced over the loud speaker as they went up to bat. For example, Alana Beasley, who traveled from Carlinville, Ill., to play, came out to a 1990s Grammy-nominated Ace of Base song, and the announcer said that she "flushes lightning bugs down the toilet."
The Tortugas, which means turtles in Spanish, lost their first game Saturday after scoring 10 runs in the first inning. Beasley said she looked forward to the loser's bracket.
AV Rocks, a team of teachers from Iron County, traveled 60 miles to compete.
Players were encouraged to make donations to the Pujols Family Foundation in St. Louis, which promotes awareness of children with Down syndrome. "It's a lot of fun, but we're not just showing up for nothing," Osborne said.
The contest has gained interest since last year, when only about half as many participated.
335-6611, extension 137