Inside Events: World Wiffleball® Championship | Sports Destination Management

Inside Events: World Wiffleball® Championship

An Interview with Mike Baniak, Co-Commissioner
Jun 22, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The 44th World WiffleBall ® Championship is currently scheduled for July 15-16, 2023, at Memorial Park in Midlothian, Illinois. Yes, the game with rules similar to those of baseball has gone, well, big league. Co-Commissioner Mike Baniak sat down with SDM to discuss its growth and its future.

Sports Destination Management: The WiffleBall ® was invented in 1953, according to your website. How long has the championship been around?

Mike Baniak: This will be our 44th tournament. We started in 1980 and we host it every two years. It is an open tournament; we have pool play on Saturday and a single elimination tournament on Sunday.

SDM: How many teams does it draw?

Baniak: Typically, we bring in somewhere between 45 and 65 teams. We run the tournament at several locations.

SDM: What kind of facilities do you look for when you are seeking a host?

Baniak: Softball diamonds are the best locations; they tend to have a hug in the middle with the fields, usually around four to six fields, radiating out from there. Wiffle Ball® fields are smaller than your average baseball field.

SDM: So, baseball fields are out?

Baniak: The only real impediment to hosting this sport in a baseball complex is the warning track. Our players often have bare feet.

SDM: You have noted how many teams you have in the tournament, but how many players does it take to play Wiffleball®?

World Wiffleball ChampionshipBaniak: There are four to five players on a team; usually, between five and twelve players show up to make a weekend out of it.

SDM: Do teams come in nationwide, or mainly regional?

Baniak: We draw teams from other areas of the country; for this event, a lot of them will come from the Midwest.

SDM: Is this a youth sport?

Baniak: We do have some preteens and teens but it’s largely adult. Most players are in their twenties; I would say the age range is between 11 and 68.

SDM: Is it co-ed?

Baniak: I’d love to tell you it’s an even mix, but it’s an overwhelmingly male!

SDM: What other locations have you used?

Baniak: The tournament has always been in the Midwest; it’s the most convenient for everyone. We have also been to Mishewaka, Indiana, and to Skokie, Illinois.

SDM: Has the sport grown?

Baniak: It really has grown quite a bit, although it’s not pickleball, which is exploding all over the place. It is a backyard game but there are leagues and on YouTube, there  are fun videos, leagues and other information.

SDM: How serious is this as a sport?

Baniak: A lot of people do take it very seriously. Not us – our slogan is “Where the kids play with the kids at heart.” We have the most innocent dad jokes as well as trash talk.

SDM: What other traditions do you have?

Baniak: We do not have organized activities; that’s a tradition. We listen to Marvin Gaye’s version of the National Anthem. We rely very strongly on good sportsmanship and finally, all our proceeds go to the Humane Society.

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