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Photo by Charlie Lettner

The members of Funky Plastic Offspring celebrate their second-consecutive championship. Pictured are (from left): Joey Schuster, Dan Schuster, Randy Schuster, Joel Cyrier and Schuster family patriarch Mike.

 

"Funky" repeat at Wiffle Ball national tournament

Schuster family leads undefeated title run

By Charlie Lettner

Remember playing Wiffle ball in the backyard? You know, that form of baseball that uses a plastic bat. And the plastic, open-slotted baseball that allowed pitchers to throw looping pitches that in extreme circumstances resembled a figure-eight as they approached the batter. Remember playing with your neighborhood friends? Every game was Game 7 of the World Series. 
 
Teams from across the country united to rekindle that backyard spirit at the 35th Annual World Wiffle Ball Championship July 12-13 in Skokie, Ill. The open tournament drew 32 teams and players from 14 states including Florida, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri and Michigan. The youngest player was a 10-year-old.
 
The five-member teams played a four-game, pool-play schedule on opening day. The top eight teams advanced to a single-elimination game tournament on day two.  
                    
The title-game teams both hailed from Indiana -- Maple City, from La Porte, faced defending champion Funky Plastic Offspring, of Mishawaka.
 
Both teams were stacked with power -- all but one of the 13 runs in the championship game came from home runs. Though the field was soggy from the previous days of rain, the conditions didn't affect the play of the experienced squads.
 
The championship contenders displayed great communication, strategies, athleticism and phenomenal sportsmanship. 
 
Maple City planned to use its strength to its advantage.
 
“We are a home run hitting team, and that’s what you need with power hitters like Drew Luther, Wes Ellis and Shane Anderson,” captain Alex Friedman said. 
 
Ellis added: “It’s the little things and being a team working together. That’s how you get to keep moving on.”
 
The defending champion, Funky Plastic Offspring, hoped to maintain its championship ways -- the team collected three titles since 2007. 
 
“We need to use our athleticism, chemistry, and it’s important to stick together," captain Dan Schuster said. "That’s why it’s tough to beat us.”
 
Funky Plastic Offspring used stellar defense and plenty of power to beat Maple City 9-4 for the title.
 
“I just want to say congratulations on an outstanding effort by all Final Four teams, and a great appreciation to Jim Bottorff for making this tradition possible and to keep it going for 35 years and more to come," said FPO senior slugger Mike Schuster. "The best thing about this sport is that it never gets old.”
 
The winners wiffle ball success is relative.
 
Mike Schuster, who won his first championship in 1985, passed his passion for wiffle ball down to his sons Dan, Randy, and Joey. They trio started playing while they were in high school. Now in their 20s they have joined their father and friend Joel Cyrier on a championship team.
 
The winners come from the birthplace of the tournament. It took place in Mishawaka for 33 years before moving to Skokie in 2013. The tradition will continue next year.
 
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