By Patrick Bresnahan
There are a lot of weekends that I look forward to every summer but perhaps the weekend I look forward to most is Wiffle Ball World Series weekend. What began five years ago as an excuse to get some friends back together has today grown well beyond mine or anyone’s expectations.
The idea to hold a wiffle ball tournament was the brainchild of Chad Bergan and myself. We grew up in Valley City, and throughout the course of our childhood played thousands of games of one on one wiffle ball. After we both graduated high school and left Valley City, we constantly would bring up the idea of holding a tournament in an effort to get all of our friends together and simply have a good time. Finally, in 2013 we decided to stop talking about it and actually put the tournament on.
Chad’s parents’ backyard seemed like the obvious location to ho ld the tournament, as that was where we spent the majority of our time playing wiffle ball growing up. We also decided we needed to have official titles, so Chad became the Commissioner of Wiffle Ball and I became the President of Wiffle Ball Operations. While gearing up for the tournament, another friend of ours and a Valley City High alum, Trevor Christiansen, begged us to be included, much like he used to beg let him play with us growing up. Being the nice guys that Chad and I are, we let him in on the action and named him Director of Wiffle Ball Marketing and Advancements.
The inaugural Wiffle Ball World Series was a 10 team tournament, had one basic diamond that was nothing more than a four foot high white fence with some painted foul lines, and opening ceremonies that pretty much only consisted of me singing the national anthem. Fast-forward five years and the tournament has expanded to 16 teams, two separate diamonds and has an opening ceremony that would rival some professional baseball games. Every year, Chad, Trevor and myself sit down and brainstorm about the Wiffle Ball World Series and how we can make it better for the next year. Our motto has always been that there is no idea that is too outrageous.
Over the course of those brainstorming sessions, we have come up with some rather outrageous ideas. Somehow, the majority of those crazy ideas have managed to come to fruition, with this year being the culmination of 5 years worth of ridiculous and outrageous thoughts.
2017 Wiffle Ball World Series opening ceremonies included a national guard blow-up tunnel in which every player ran through during team introductions. Following introductions, a 50 ft. American flag unraveled across entire outfield, the Valley City Color Guard presented the nation’s colors, and the national anthem was masterfully played on the electric guitar by Matthew Mclain. The guitar solo was topped off with a helicopter flyover performed by Air force member Dan Fitzner and a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Bill Leier who lost his leg at the age of 19 fighting in the Korean War.
On top of all of that, we managed to get quite a bit of media coverage for the event. There were two separate radio stations broadcasting live from the Bergan backyard, Tim Ost out of Valley City and Dom Izzo and Jeff Kolpack out of Fargo. WDAY did a television news story on the tournament both on Saturday night and a longer edition on Sunday, and the Wiffle Ball World Series was even the main cover of the sports section in the Sunday Forum.
Yes, it is safe to say the tournament has grown well beyond everyone’s expectations.
The very first year of the tournament, I put a team together that consisted of myself, my cousin John and Phil, who you would know as one of the fellow owners of Grain Designs and also my cousin. In that first year, we managed to win the entire tournament. Phil was on top of the world, as I had delivered him a championship. A couple of years after that, I joined the company Grain Designs and I figured I needed to get Blain and Grant in on the action. Unfortunately, no one could have predicted just how bad they would be at wiffle ball. Astonishingly, not even my stellar play was able to provide the lift the team needed to win, as we lost in the semi-final round.
What happened next has been the source of great anger and animosity over the last couple of years within the Grain Designs small organization. I am going to preface what happened with this, as has been mentioned in previous blog posts, I am very competitive. What hasn’t been mentioned as much, is that Phil is almost as competitive as I am. We both DESPISE losing. After team Grain Designs lost, I decided it was my duty as President of Wiffle Ball Operations to find a new team to play on. This was done strictly in an effort to expand the tournament size. So, last year I brought in another cousin of mine (I have a lot of cousins), who just happened to be playing baseball for the University of North Dakota, along with a couple of his friends. Long story short, I ended up winning the tournament again, and team Grain Designs had a tough and unceremonious exit from the tournament.
After they were eliminated, Phil basically refused to talk to me for the rest of the weekend and still refuses to let the whole thing go. Personally, I think Phil should just be happy I delivered him a championship and understand that it was only because of my sworn duty as President of Wiffle Ball Operations to make an effort to expand the tournament that I was forced to bring in other players to form another team.
This year, both team Grain Designs and my team had and early exit from the tournament and Phil immediately propositioned me to form an all cousins team for next year. Since Phil has whined about me leaving his team for the past two years, and also because I am continuing to try to fulfill my responsibilities as President and perhaps a very small part because I didn’t win this year. I have decided I am going to accept Phil’s offer of the formation of a super team. Now after Phil and I win the Wiffle Ball World Series in 2018, he can listen to Grant and Blain whine to him for a couple of years.
We even remembered to set our drinks aside for a quick photo op featuring the expanded Grain Designs team including, Jordan Nelson on the left (a close friend & GD Wiffle Ball Recruit) and Jayden Mikkonen (the fourth and a half GD team member).