Northeast Times

Play ball

Loc­al Wiffle ball en­thu­si­asts hold a daylong tour­na­ment in the North­east. The back­yard skills on the dia­mond raised more than $600 for char­ity. 

  • A swinging success: Brian Miracle hosted a backyard Wiffle ball tournament that this year raised money for Helen’s Hope, a charity. Friends who took part in the competition are (top, from left) Mike Palmer, Dylan Bott, Mike Shiffler and (front center) Miracle. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • Miracle swings during the Wiffle ball tournament held in his backyard. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • The lineup: The Wiffle ball tournament took place on Aug. 2 and lasted from morning uintil 8 p.m., after which Brian Miracle awarded trophies to the winners. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • The lineup: The Wiffle ball tournament took place on Aug. 2 and lasted from morning uintil 8 p.m., after which Brian Miracle awarded trophies to the winners. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • The lineup: The Wiffle ball tournament took place on Aug. 2 and lasted from morning uintil 8 p.m., after which Brian Miracle awarded trophies to the winners. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

To many boys in the North­east, Wiffle ball is con­sidered not just a game, but a sym­bol of their child­hood. For a group of young men in Somer­ton on a Fri­day af­ter­noon in Au­gust, however, it was much more than that.

Bri­an Mir­acle, along with 15 of his boy­hood friends from the neigh­bor­hood, gathered about 9 o’clock in the morn­ing at his house to draft teams for their 4th an­nu­al “Wiffle­ball Ex­tra­vag­anza” — a daylong tour­na­ment held in his back­yard. This year, for the first time, the tour­na­ment raised money for char­ity.

“We de­cided to do it on the first Fri­day in Au­gust; it gave every­one time to take off from work and make sure we could all do it. It’s a ‘Fri­day for the boys,’” the 20-year-old Mir­acle said, sport­ing a worn, off-white Min­nesota Twins T-shirt and a red and white base­ball cap.

The teams were di­vided up by choos­ing ran­dom bingo balls. Team names were made up; some on the spot, while oth­ers were car­ried over from years past, and writ­ten on a blue poster board that hung on the wall of Mir­acle’s back deck. The brack­et was set, and the games began.

Mir­acle’s above ground pool served as the seat­ing area for score­book keep­er/um­pire Dylan Singleton, who sat di­li­gently in his chair on the pool deck watch­ing each game’s every move, re­cord­ing each strikeout, hit and out. Or­ange cones served as the bases, and home plate stood in front of a small shed. The bot­tom half of the shed’s door served as the “strike zone.”

The branches of the trees blocked much of the sun’s rays; however, in game after game, the young men walked off the field wip­ing beads of sweat off their fore­heads.

What made this year’s tour­na­ment spe­cial was that they were play­ing for a great­er cause than just a group of young men gath­er­ing to en­gage in one of Amer­ica’s pas­times.

About a month be­fore the tour­na­ment, Mir­acle’s moth­er, Pat, sug­ges­ted do­ing something dif­fer­ent and play­ing to raise money for a char­it­able cause.

“She asked us if we ever con­sidered do­ing this for char­ity,” Bri­an Mir­acle said. ldquo;We were all really en­thu­si­ast­ic about it.”

The group de­cided to raise funds for a loc­al char­ity called Helen’s Hope, which was named after Helen Eb­n­er, aunt of Bri­an Mir­acle’s child­hood friend, Nick Ricci. Eb­n­er’s fam­ily es­tab­lished the non­profit or­gan­iz­a­tion in Helen’s name after she lost her battle with breast can­cer in 2007.

“She was the ‘fun aunt’,” Ricci said, speak­ing of his Aunt Helen. “She was in­to rock and roll and all that stuff.

“The char­ity helps people who are strug­gling to make ends meet as a res­ult of their can­cer treat­ments,” he said.

“Mrs. Mir­acle really went above and bey­ond,” Ricci said of her en­thu­si­asm about mak­ing the tour­na­ment mean something more than just boys play­ing Wiffle ball in her back­yard.

“I get just as ex­cited as they do,” said Pat Mir­acle, who was busy pick­ing up and pre­par­ing food both bought and donated for the hungry play­ers throughout much of the day.

“They take it very ser­i­ously,” she said about the boys’ in­tense love of the game, “I asked Bri­an, ‘My gosh, do you ever stress this much over a test?’ ”

An­ti­cip­a­tion for this day looms for months. The gang re­called back in March mark­ing “200 days” til the tour­na­ment with ex­cite­ment and eager­ness.

Par­ti­cipants are asked to pay a fee to pay for game day sup­plies such as food, equip­ment, trophies and T-shirts. To raise ad­di­tion­al funds to donate to Helen’s Hope, let­ters were sent out to loc­al busi­nesses, as well as fam­ily and friends, ask­ing for their sup­port for the cause.

To date, the tour­na­ment raised more than $600 for Helen’s Hope. Bri­an Mir­acle ex­pects this to be the just the start of an event that will raise even more money in the fu­ture.

“We star­ted fun­drais­ing a little too late,” he said, “but if we do a little more plan­ning I think we can def­in­itely raise more.” ••

To make a dona­tion to Helen’s Hope, vis­it www.helen­shope.org.

You can reach at cdifiore@bsmphilly.com.

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