Major League Wiffle, a 60-player Wiffle Ball league in Havre de Grace, opened its season Wednesday with a little aid from an NBA basketball player.
Gary Neal, who played high school basketball at Aberdeen before transferring and finishing at Calvert Hall, threw out the first pitch for the league, which operates in the back yard of Jim and Stacey Reynolds' Grace Harbour home.
Neal, who says he's a free agent after playing this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, lives nearby and was asked by some of the league's players to handle the first pitch honors.
"It was crazy, I actually wasn't home, but they talked to my wife Leah, and she relayed the message to me and I told her that she could tell the kids that I would do it," Neal said. "I mean why not, I'm home, kids are doing something positive and instructive with their time and so why wouldn't I have done it. You know, show my support."
The league, run by commissioner Trent Reynolds and a handful of others known as owners, actually began last summer, but a late start meant an abbreviated season. The league did have playoffs and crown a champion, though.
The league features six 10-player teams with players ranging primarily in age from middle school to college. Games are six innings, played only in daylight hours and there is a 20-run rule after three innings, according to Reynolds. Games are played one day in a given week, with no set day. The schedule progresses as player availability allows.
The players were drafted during a live draft on May 4 from the deck that overlooks the field, which did not have an official name as of Wednesday. Highlighting the draft were first overall pick, Christian Amici, to the Possums.
The league also drafted its first female player, with the Wild Boars selecting Emily Lewis.
"This is nice, I actually didn't know the set up of the league and the games, so when I got here, it was kind of unique," Neal said. "This is something that a lot of the neighborhood kids are doing and to do it in their back yard just shows that if there's a will, there's a way." Neal was given a signed ball in a plastic ball case as a keepsake.
The six teams and the league standings after Wednesday's opening day are Susquehannocks (1-0); Screwballs (1-0); Wild Boars (1-0); Kirbies (0-1); Antelopes (0-1) and Possums (0-1). The league can be followed at the twitter site @MajorLeagueWif.
Highlighting the first day of play, the Wild Boars overcame an six-run deficit to win on an home run in extra innings. That first game was also delayed early on when Reynolds was brought on for another duty: dog poop patrol.