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Returning to the top – A Wiffle Ball dynasty continues

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BANGOR – Eight years, eight championship games.

That’s the legacy of the Downtown with Rich Kimball team in the annual Wayne’s Wiffle for a Wish Wiffle Ball tournament. The event – created and organized by Wayne Harvey as a fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation – marked its 11th year on Aug. 17. It’s a wonderful event that has raised over $100,000 for a remarkable cause over the past decade-plus.

But we’re here to talk about the legendary run of Downtown – a run that continued with our hoisting aloft the trophy as Classic Division champions.

Over the past eight years, the Downtown squad has won four division championships while making it to the final every single year. It’s a positively LeBron-esque run, a James-ian display of Wiffle competence that is the result of the team being in precisely the right place at the right time.

Our first four years, we were in the Executive Division, where we won two of our four championships. After that, we moved to the then-newly-created Classic Division, where we won a title in 2016 before finishing as runners-up in 2017 and 2018.

And then, of course, our 2019 title.

Before we go any farther, I should be clear – while we have put up phenomenal divisional results over the years, there’s no question that we are in the proper division. Almost without exception, we are creaky and old; we get by on craftiness and gumption. If we were to step up to the top-tier Open Division, we would be destroyed in short order. Classic Quad-A players – great at our level, incapable of stepping up.

(Seriously – there’s a crew in the Open Division that goes by the moniker Master Batters that is one heck of a team. Those dudes have won a mess of Open titles and are collectively better at Wiffle Ball than we are at, well … anything.)

Said creakiness is on full display as I write this, a couple of days after the event. As one of our team’s pitchers, I threw seven or eight innings of Wiffle Ball over the course of the day. That might not sound like a lot, but for a middle-aged dude like me, it is. Granted, it’s not like I was throwing anything close to what anyone would consider hard – the longstanding joke is that my pitching proves that it’s possible to throw a Wiffle ball negative miles an hour – but it’s still a lot of pitches. And I’m old. My shoulder is old and my elbow is old.

But hey – I throw strikes. Sure, some of them are strikes that get hit REALLY hard, but they’re strikes. And when the wind is blowing and I find my range, I can be as infuriating to face as any hard thrower – particularly with a solid defense behind me.

Team leader and namesake Rich Kimball and former show producer Bryan Stackpole are – along with yours truly – the only squad members to appear in all seven of these tournaments. Our other teammates include current Downtown producer Carey Haskell and friend of the show Jason Preble, as well as ace Bryce Colbeth – a former Downtown team member who had been unavailable for the last two years before returning – whose live arm and big bat looked to make the difference.

And boy did they.

We marched through the tournament, trailing for only an inning or two over the course of four contests. Our opponents all put up valiant efforts, but it was all for naught – we would not be denied. With Bryce striking out just about everybody and me pitching as effectively as I ever have, plus some strong hitting up and down the lineup, we were unstoppable.

Another trip to the finals. We’re eight-for-eight. Sure, we haven’t taken home the hardware every time out, but that’s OK – it wouldn’t be fun if we won ALL the time (though it was nice that we won one for Carey and Jason – hell, Preble was probably our best player his first couple of years on the squad, so it feels good to finally get him a ring).

In the end, we played four games and we won them all. And we tip our caps to the three teams we faced in our march to the title. Yes, it hurts our elbows and backs and knees, but we tip them anyway. So it goes.

And hey – maybe you think you’ve got what it takes to end our streak. And we’d love to see you try. There’s only one way to find out - put a team together. You’ve got a little over 11 months. Plus, you’d be doing something fun and helping a wonderful cause.

Consider the gauntlet thrown – sign up for Wayne’s Wiffle for a Wish 2020 and see if you can prevent our efforts to “Shine for Nine.”

Last modified on Thursday, 22 August 2019 09:44

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