July 25, 2020
Cynthia L. Eppley, MA
Whiffle Ball during COVID
There is a Whiffle Ball Tournament going on around the corner. This might not be notable on any other hot day of the summer, but this summer is different. This is a COVID summer. And sports are off limits.
Not to be deterred, a group of young men got together and formed the CWA: The Cimino Whiffle Ball Association. This is nothing new for these guys. They went to high school together in Atco and Blackwood, NJ. The brothers and cousins began playing whiffle ball when they were 6-7 yrs. old. Then they added corn hole, and eventually, they played football in high school. Friends were added into the mix. They connect together on Snapchat on Sunday evenings.
This began as a family affair. The Cimino sisters lived in Atco—Jacqueline, Karen, and Gabrielle. Close knit as a family, they played sports together and did the things that bind us together. One member of the family, Joe Tripoli moved to Ambler several years ago. There happened to be an empty lot next to his house.
Now, that lot could have been sold. But Joe knew a good thing when he saw it: a field in the making.
Field of Dreams
I remember it being full of weeds and tall grass years ago. But over the past few years, it was mowed. Then a stone driveway was laid. This past Spring I noticed tall yellow poles to mark foul balls. Then came a backboard. And a scoreboard. And “Sponsors” logos were added: Mountain Dew. Flood lights were placed. Umbrellas were added, as well as seating for the teams.
A “Field of Dreams” was in the making.
Just yesterday Joe added chalk lines to mark off the official measurements for a whiffle ball field. If you are going to play the game, play it right. They have teams of 3 people. Each game is 3 innings, and there is a 5 game series. Today, the 1st cede team played the 3rd. And the teams?
The Boss brothers, Hot brothers, and Cool brothers. They have their own team shirts, numbers, and even a Commissioner.
The sidelines are a grouping of Moms, sisters, littles, and the grandfather of all of them: Gabriel. Can you imagine the pride Grandpa feels as he watches these young men take the field?
These young college students are varied:
Joe Jr. is 21 and attends Penn State Main Campus. On my “interview” with him he explained that he is studying science. Many science courses later, he has landed on a passion: Physics. He explained that as he pitches, he understands the velocity, the wind movement, and the curve. It has a direct application to life. And a good solid hit? Physics come together for a home run.
Orlando, Matt, Jake, Biagio (Italian for Benjamin), Dalton, Luke, and Brando round out the teams.
It is 90 here today, with high humidity. The game goes on. I was warmly welcomed by Jackie, Joe’s wife. I asked her about the field and mentioned the large azaleas that seemed to be blocking 1st base. “I love the field! And I love that the kids play here! But those azaleas? They are my heirloom azaleas. They have to stay!”
First hotdogs were on the grill. Then hamburgers were being handed out. Next came Gatorade and water, and finally refreshing ice pops.
The details count. I was getting ready to walk over when I heard strains of singing. The Star Spangled Banner was being sung by Bianca. She did a beautiful job.
As I came upon the field, I was welcomed warmly by Biagio. He manned the announcement table, just behind home plate. They had heard that I was coming, and were excited to meet me. But as most things that are fun, this began to spin out of control. He asked if he could announce my arrival:
“Hello fans, and welcome to Cynthia, from the Ambler Gazette.”
That got a lot of attention, but it is not true.
I had told Joe that I wanted to write a blog about this event
Not to be discouraged, the next announcement came: “Welcome to Cynthia, who is here from Fox News.”
“Welcome to Cynthia, here to cover the tournament.”
And as a plane flew over, “Thank you for Cynthia for arranging a fly over.” And as I walked towards my home, “Thank you for Cynthia a great woman.”
Play by Play from the Press Booth
What is a game without a great play by play? Each batter had their own walk up music.
Biagio outdid himself:
“The tension continues to build between these brothers….” “Ouch—that pitch hit on the left “cheek”….that’s gonna leave a mark.”
“That ball is in the azalea bush!” (And an aside: Is that 1 or 2 bases?)
“That ball is gone! A grand slam! And it’s over the Green Monster!” (The backfield wall)
“Orlando here has won for best shoes in the league….over 120. These are camouflage pattern. Orlando, can you speak to the chances of your winning?”
Orlando, wisely responded: “No comment until we hoist the trophy.”
And finally bantering back and forth with Joe Sr.:
“One whiffle ball in the hand is worth two in the bush…..What does that even mean???”
I am not a fan of baseball, but even I recognized Matt imitating a combination of Harry Kalas and Merrill Reese.
Baseball, hot dogs, Apple pie and Chevrolet
The most famous use of “baseball, hot dogs and apple pie” was as a jingle in a 1974 Chevrolet commercial. It’s definitely a catchy tune! A commercial made well before these kids entered the world.
But today, during COVID, baseball never started.
And so in this season, perhaps the Cimino Whiffleball Tournament takes on new meaning. The things that tie us together are not really baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and cars.
It is the stuff of family.
The stuff of friendship.
The Field of Dreams and Kids
This entire field is somewhat surreal. Located in Ambler, it is used by the neighborhood kids. Then a tournament happens.
I asked Joe why he did it?
Why did he build a field?
Was it for the love of the game?
His simple, poignant answer: “No, it is for the love of my kids.” There you have it.
Tomorrow at 12 noon is the playoff. If you should happen by Joe and Jackie’s home on Belmont Ave in Ambler, they will warmly welcome you.
They will give you a water or gatorade.
The guys will cheer on each other and give a High Five. The fans will cheer as the guys run the bases. COVID has no hold on this.