2019 Offseason News & Notes #1: Meet the Meats, 2019 Championship Tournament
2019 Offseason News & Notes #2: Lemon Heads, Winter Classic
2019 Offseason News & Notes #3: Longballs, 2019 Gameplay Rule Changes
2019 Offseason News & Notes #4: Shortballs, Bunting
2019 Offseason News & Notes #5: Juggernauts
‘Championship or Bust’ for ERL?
The flurry of activity this offseason in Mid Atlantic has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.
On June 10, 2017, ERL made their Mid Atlantic debut a memorable one, going 5-1 on the day and defeating the Golden Sanders in the finals to capture the tournament title. The trio of Connor Young, Joe Schlindwein, and Jim Linhardt looked like the odds-on favorites to win the inaugural MAW regular season title and take the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament, but the squad couldn’t get by the York Yaks in August or September and fell to the Jordan Robles-led Stompers in the Championship Tournament. Young added eventual 2018 Rookie of the Year recipient Blake Hoffman that winter and brought Dan Whitener and Gerard Fitzgerald on board during the season. Those additions got ERL their regular season title, but the team was stopped in the semi-finals of the Championship Tournament as they dropped two out of three to the Jersey Lemon Heads.
Before the 2018 season concluded, Young had outlined a path forward for ERL in ’19. No longer content with playing the role of the bridesmaid, Young sought to build a juggernaut for MAW’s third season. Letting all other players but Whitener loose, Young added his main competition for the distinction of best player in MAW’s short history – Jordan Robles – to the fold. To round things out, ERL announced on New Year’s eve the addition of Johnny Costa, which made official a move that had been the subject of speculation for months prior.
The result is a lean and mean ERL squad that is not only the on-paper favorites in Mid Atlantic, but a force to be reckon with wherever they may play this year. Young was the game’s most durable, high-end pitcher last year and threw more than 200 quality fast pitch innings in multiple settings. Batting from the left side, the free swinger has a knack for the clutch hit and won the Mid Atlantic Jerome “The Legend” Coyle batting title in 2018. There are plenty of folks who believe that Whitener posses’ wiffleball’s best arm, an opinion that is supported by his otherworldly numbers in both Mid Atlantic and Palisades last year. Robles enters the final season of the decade on the short list of the best all-around players of the last ten years. Jordan is two for two in Mid Atlantic Championships and has every intention of completing the hat trick. In Johnny Wiffs, ERL added yet another quality two-way player. Costa is battled tested and provides his team with yet another starting pitching option.
With ERL, it will likely be more interesting to chart their progress and success on a tournament-by-tournament basis in 2019 rather than simply waiting to see where they will end up. It would take a catastrophe for them not to be one of the top seeded teams going into the Championship Tournament, but it would be far less shocking to see them enter the Championship Tournament with less tournament titles and wins than might otherwise be expected. Over the course of a full tournament season, the offense will produce. On the individual tournament level, ERL – like most teams – are not immune to dry spells. Robles and Young have been on the bad side of some one-run losses over the past two years in MAW and if the offense doesn’t score consistently, they could find themselves in that situation more often than they would like in 2019. Whitener will be tough to deal with if ERL can hand him the ball for the first time in the tournament championship but they have to get there first.
ERL will be one of the top teams in Mid Atlantic by season’s end. The big question is if they get there by blitzing through the competition or will every tournament be a battle for one of MAW’s signature teams?
Schaefer Finds a New Role
MAW officials are pleased to announce that former Stomper and In the Box standout Nick Schaefer will assume the role of lead broadcast announcer for the organization’s live streaming broadcasts in 2019. Nick – who retired from the sport in 2018 following a 20-year career – will make his official debut in this role at Opening Day on April 20th. He is also signed to broadcast games at the May 18th tournament in New Jersey, with more 2019 dates to be added. With a degree in communications, a quick wit, and a deep knowledge of the sport, Nick will be a valuable member of the team this season as he previews games, calls the action, and conducts interviews with players. Nick will be joined on commentary by a rotating cast of players and the occasional special guest.
In addition to his broadcasting role, Nick will also lend a hand as a contributor to The Drop in both a written and audio (podcast) capacity, as well as serving as a consultant to MAW.
Here and There
Do you have a team name suggestion for the MAW representatives at the NWLA Tournament? Let us know! . . . Registration for the 2019 regular season tournaments will be open soon. MAW officials would like to thank everyone for their patience as we work on finalizing a few logistics . . . Please note that “Backyard Brawl” at Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA has been moved from 7/27 to 8/11. This was done to accommodate the returning NJWA Summer Showdown tournament . . . The MAW YouTube channel has undergone a recent overhaul and is consistently adding new videos and playlists . . . Have you checked out the The Drop Podcast on the Wiffle Now network? Episodes of the podcast will touch on wiffleball from all over – past and present – but will have a regular focus on MAW. Expect regularly released episodes once the 2019 season gets underway . . . Although they will be on separate teams in MAW, Gino Joseph and Chris Sarno will team up on 100 Thieves in the Wiff Is Life League. The Thieves have several other players that should be familiar to MAW regulars, including captain Steven Keelon, Austin Berger, and Nate Morris . . . Speaking of MAW regulars outside MAW, Connor Young has been awarded a franchise in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League. The Devil Rays will begin play when the 2019 RPWL season begins this June . . . We also hear that Connor’s ERL teammate Joe Schlindwein is expected to enter the RPWL draft this season . . . The CFOT Winter Wiffle League wraps up its 3rd this season this weekend when the Sultans of Squad captained by Jerry Hill take on SIX Fifty captained by Chris Owen. Both Jerry and Chris have been impressive on the rubber this winter and will no doubt pitch as many innings (2 inning per pitcher limit in regulation) for their teams in the finals as they can. The finals will air this weekend on the league’s Facebook page.