The day is soon coming and anticipation is rising. The wiffler’s dream is only a few short days away. Expectations throughout the year have gone from, should we give this tournament a shot, can we even compete. Then expectations went to we got this, we can compete to win the regional, who are the dads anyway we should beat some 40 year olds. Which was followed by are we going to even make the tournament. Being a first timer to the league really has had its pros and cons. Here’s a glimpse of what the tournament has looked like through the eyes of a Legend.
Let’s back this up to April 2016 where it all began. The league had a rough year 2 in 2015, after trying to sport 8 teams, the total 2015 attendance was 25 players. This came after an opening year of seeing 35 wiffleballers come and go in 2014. The league dropped back to 6 teams in 2016 with the hopes of growing sent to the back burner. Passion for the league dropped for the Commish hard after the 2015 campaign and it took a little kick from Caleb to spark the fire back. Caleb was influential in forming a NWLA team and things were starting to get going when the unthinkable happened, a shoulder injury.
With Caleb sidelined for the year and no signs of 1 ace let alone 2, the fire started to suffer yet again. May 7 came around and the conference call was scheduled to happen. The Commish thought, what the hell I’ll see what this is about and went into the call with a 50/50 shot that Leroy would even sport a team in the tournament. Then mid-call Caleb showed up and said the shoulder wasn’t as bad as first indicated and he could still pitch. The lighter was ignited again.
Fast forward to June and the league was reaching new heights in weekly attendance and overall wiffle play. Players like Brett Detmar and Matt Dykstra were putting up monster pitching numbers. Traction for the regional gained momentum and players started showing interest. The team started to take form and things were looking on the rise. Expectations were through the roof until the huge mistake…. The pitching mound. Somehow, someway Tim glanced over the fact the NWLA mound was 48’… 6’ farther than the Leroy mound. With only a week till regional it wasn’t enough time and expectations dipped significantly after the Two Wiffle Dudes showed concern in the mound length.
There was no turning back… we were off to Michigan. After a hot and humid Saturday in the middle of June the Legends left with unsure what the future holds. The roller coaster ride of a day left them in limbo land of making the treasured tournament. Weeks followed and things slowly looked up and up as other new leagues were laying goose egg after goose egg in the wins column. The final regional had ended and the Legends were going to Ohio. Josh Smith we are still bringing some tea if you’re interested.
Days crept closer and the roster changed almost every day. Sitter was going on vacation, Dykstra had to work, and Gibson was going to Michigan. The experience we got from Michigan was dwindling away player by player as a new roster had to be put in place. With only 3 players from Regionals the Legends have 4 fresh faces. The first Chapter of the Legends National Book begins with these 8 Characters.
#2 – Tim Wiltjer - The Commissioner of the league, Tim will take over as Manager of the National Team. Tim’s pitching has improved for a 2nd straight year, but his inconsistency is far to great. Tim might get an inning or two in round robin depending on the situation. His expertise will come in managing and will be a fill in for some round robin games.
#4 – Jordan Mosel – A late addition to the team Jordan’s game is quiet and unseen. He doesn’t have the power or pitching, but his .463 career batting average (12th all time) is where he looks to make his impact. When patient and protective Jordan can give any pitcher trouble and likes to do the little things and get on base to pressure the opposing pitchers.
#14 – Kevin Vroegh – Kevin is one of the 3 returning players to play in Nationals. Kevin was instrumental in leading the Legends to a Ohio qualification as he led the team in walks and in batting average at .364. His patience and ability to go after the right pitch will be the difference for the offense against the top tier pitching at the tournament. Kevin also looks to pitch a round robin game and lower is 80.00 E.R.A. he sported at Regionals….. Yes that’s not a typo 80.00.
#16 – Brett Detmar – Brett was also a member of the Regional squad and will be one of our Double Elimination pitchers. Brett led the team with 8k’s but also gave up 12 walks as well. If he can get locked in early and stay locked in Brett could be a huge difference maker for the legends. A lot will be determined about our team based on how Brett executes his pitches on Saturday. His batting was average as well putting up a .308 average and walking 9 times. He will lead off for the Legends as well with his uncanny speed around the bases.
#17 – Caleb Jonkman – Caleb managed the Regional team and was a huge part of why we are headed to Ohio. He pitched a big time game against Huntington doing just enough to win. Caleb’s shoulder injury was evident in his batting as he posted a .071 batting average. He got some much needed plate time and with his shoulder close to 100% after an early June surgery he will no doubt have better numbers from the plate. Being a lefty also adds a little spice to the lineup making opposing pitchers locate their pitches to different locations. Caleb will join Brett as a double elimination pitcher with hopes of erasing the debacle that was Griffleball.
#23 – Jared Jonkman – Jared who turned 18 a couple weeks after the regional gets to make his tournament debut. Although his pitching is nowhere near his brothers, yet improving week by week Jared’s batting puts Calebs to shame. His power will be leading force for the Legends with both Gibson and Dykstra not making the trip. Being only 18 Jared gets an early pass to the tournament with hopes of developing his game while also gaining experience at the same time.
#28 – Erik Detmar – A pitching guru who most days is the best pitcher Leroy has to offer. Unfortunately Erik doesn’t turn 18 till the spring of 2017, so he will spend his time helping Tim manager as well as working with the pitchers as a pitching coach. He will also be a first base coach for the event as well as gaining knowledge of how the game is played on the National Level.
#43 – Jeremiah Wiltjer – Jeremiah is in his rookie season in the LWA and only got signed to a team just a few weeks ago. His ability to adjust to how the game is being played is one of, if not the best I have ever seen. Week in and out his pitching has gone from the worst in the league to potential top 5 when it is on. Depending on how he’s throwing he may make a round robin start for the Legends. His bats have also been a pleasant surprise as he is 2nd in the league in average at .486. A huge pick up for the Legends after losing some key players. He fills a void nicely and gives hope for a competitive run for the Legends this year.
So there’s the start to the first chapter of NWLA for the Legends of Leroy, the question remains with this book start as a tragedy or as a fairy tale.