Wiffleballers gear up for annual event

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Mom's flower garden is the left-field wall. The base paths point to a street or the back door of the house, take your pick.

And the wooden deck overlooking the back-yard field is the next best thing to a stadium skybox.

It has the comforts of home -- OK, so it is home -- but don't let it fool you. Cameron Yards -- neighbors know it as the Steve and Debbie Unterreiner residence, 3915 State Highway W -- is all business this weekend for the fifth annual Wack-Fest wiffleball tournament.

Thirty-two wiffleballers -- using the traditional plastic balls and bats --will make up the eight teams that kick off today's games at 9 a.m. The first round continues through sundown, and semifinals are at 9 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. The championship is at 1 p.m., just after a home-run derby.

It combines a back-yard atmosphere with big-league determination, all the way down to a little trash-talking on the field.

"We want to have fun, but we get serious when it comes down to winning it," said David Unterreiner, a senior at Notre Dame Regional High School and, along with his cousin Paul, the founder of the event.

"We had a cash prize for the winning team last year, but we're back to just trophies this year. In the future, who knows what we'll be able to do?"

The future could even include a permanent field. It would replace the temporary field and the equipment -- fencing, a scoreboard, bases -- that has to be assembled and marked off at the start of summer, then put away for winter.

With the type of response the event's creators have gotten the past five years, a permanent field could be the next big step for the event.

"We had some problems getting eight teams together for that first year, but now we have to tell people they can't play because there's no more room," David said. "We tried to have a league for a while but it was just so much trouble to schedule games, but we still have to have this once a year."

Most of the participants have come from school and family friendships, but this year opponents come from other area schools like Central. A team of Notre Dame coaches almost was part of the event, but had scheduling conflicts.

They'll all try this year to win a title won last year by Tyler Cuba, Garrett Holzum, Mark Rubel and Scott Wittenborn. David and Paul will join Mark Unterreiner and Andy Arnzen -- last year's home-run derby winner -- on the team that lost 11-7 in last year's championship, but won the previous three years.

"The whole event has really grown more than I thought," Arnzen said. "We'd been playing wiffleball in the back yard and then David started talking about putting together a tournament. I told him I'd play, but I didn't really think he'd pull it off."

Seating is available. There are also Steve's barbecued burgers and hot dogs, which are free until they run out.


(573) 335-6611, extension 174

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