Cacace at the Bat: Harvard's National Pastime

Though not the official beginning of spring, the Undergraduate Council’s low-key Springfest provides some with a sense that the warm weather and sandals are here to stay.

Not me.

The way I see it, there is a far more accurate barometer for measuring the staying power of spring days.

Just look around and see how many long, yellow wiffle ball bats are flailing helplessly around campus.

It’s true, folks—the last American sport surely heralds (for those in the know) a time of relaxation and idyllic afternoons in house quads and the tent-littered Yard.

The timelessness of the sport is understood by all—it’s the same bat and ball that was pitched to you as a kid.

Of course, the pitching has changed. The overhand lob has given way to the filthy, nasty, unhittable curve, riseball, or sinker.

The natural development of the game has eluded some.

A number of holdouts still serve up meatballs, but such an amateur level of play is to be considered bush league at best.

We’ve got all our lives to play in beer league slow-pitch softball games. Bring some gas!

The arm angles and breaks make that little white ball with eight glorious holes as impossible to touch as Ben Crockett’s nasty stuff.

Without question, wiffle ball is not a hitter’s game. The ball is moving all over the place, and never the same way twice.

Mind the caveat on the box, wiffle ballers: “It curves!”

Basically, though, I’m just happy to see people outside playing the game. Without belittling the role of video game sports, indoor athletic contests just don’t cut it when you haven’t seen the sun in seven months.

The more that people take part in the wiffle fraternity, the less that people are jogging along the Charles and making me feel bad about myself.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of the sport is the ease with which it’s played. Wiffle ball caters to us motion-sensitive spring revelers.

A simple shift of the fingers or flick of the wrist yields countless permutations of pitches.

Hitting—a futile attempt to begin with—only requires that you played some Little League baseball, and have the necessary hand-eye coordination to occasionally hammer a flat screwball.

Free of the commercialization and intense media scrutiny of other sports, wiffle ball delights in its marginal status, thumbing its nose at “popular” sports.

It doesn’t demand the spotlight, but knows it can snatch it. It doesn’t venture near official sponsors or endorsements, but knows it can win the favor of all the corporate backers salivating over it.

That sort of brash confidence gives the game its edge. It’s a little cheeky of you to get up there and swing that pale yellow bat, but you do it anyway.

And you do it for hours. The location and personnel vary, but you’ll play it for two hours and swear it’s only been ten minutes.

You’ll play it when papers are due, you’ll play it under the influence, you’ll play it at night.

Home run derby seems to have its followers, but the fast-pitch game is not conducive to taters.

Many people simply get on the mound and force friends to take embarrassing hacks. Others position fielders.

The rules are vague at best, and that’s the allure. Make them up, it doesn’t matter. Outside of the lob, there’s no wrong way to play.

The only potential objections that may arise involve the notorious “Wiffle Ball” trademark on both the ball and bat. I can certainly understand why one would object to the monopolization of the whiffle ball industry.

But if you’re not one to stage a sit-in over the issue, at least get out there and throw the old wiffle ball around for an hour or two.