W ILKES-BARRE -- A recreational Wiffle Ball league will be rounding the bases at a newly leased and renovated field in the city thanks to help from local online voters and an international soft drink giant's generosity. • The Backyard Wiffle Ball League moved into its new home at the site of the former North End Little League Field on North Washington Street following months of discussion with city officials.
"We won a $10,000 grant from Pepsi and we knew we wanted to give back to the community," said Kevin Sickle, who founded the six-team league in 2004 with fellow Wiffle Ball enthusiast Tom Hannon.
"The field in North End was perfect for us, so we're thrilled that the lease worked out for the city and for our league. It was a win-win for all of us," he said.
Sickle said league volunteers are modifying the currently unused baseball diamond to reflect vintage ballparks such as Ebbets Field, Fenway Park and the Polo Grounds.
According to Sickle, the Pepsi Refresh grant is awarded to the top 15 vote-getters among community-based organizations in a national poll of online voters weighing in on the organizations' mission statement and core ideas.
"We had some people voting for us every day," laughed Sickle. "There were a lot of people pulling for us in the community."
Sickle said the original idea for the league was to have fun playing ball and to raise money for local causes by sponsoring charity tournaments.
"We generally start our season in May with a charity tournament," Sickle explained. "This year we raised over $900 for the Tyler Winstead Memorial Fund."
Tyler was a 14-year-old Wilkes-Barre boy who police said was accidentally shot by a friend in April.
League officials said they plan to expand beyond their adult league to include teen and junior subdivisions.
"I got into the league by accident," said Bob Loftus of Pittston, who joined BWBL in 2005. "I actually read a story about the league's Wiffle Ball tournament in The Times Leader and decided to put a team together to compete.
"Of course they matched us up with their best guys and they beat us 2-1, but we gave them a game. It's been seven seasons and I'm still here at 42 years old, having fun and working to make sure that this new field is everything we envisioned it to be," he said.
Log on to the Backyard Wiffle Ball League's updated website at www.BWBL.net.