Wiffle Ball Field of Dreams in Bellevue is Sure Sign of Summer
There are different signs that a new season has officially started and with the arrival of warm weather and green leaves on the trees, many are looking ahead to all the customary hallmarks of summer.
For Kevin Brannock, though, there is no more telling event that summer has arrived than opening day at the wiffle ball field he's created near his backyard.
Mere feet from the Ohio River in Bellevue, Brannock and his friends have created their own field of dreams. Tucked into the riverside dimensions of a Mark Twain setting, is a flat grass patch that hits away from the river toward the houses and is complete with a home run wall, chalk lines and a legit backstop.
In left field is a short porch for homers, but it's by no means a gimme. Also featured are classic kid-like oddities in the field like a bush near the third-base line called Chris Shrubo and an overhanging branch that robs homeruns called Steve Barkman. It is the most inviting scene a wiffle ball fan could ever ask for.
“I don't know how you could have a backyard like this and not do this,” he said. “It's turned from every Wednesday, to everyday that we can get out here. They text me and ask if we're playing today. It's my backyard, so sure. It's not hard getting here.”
The people help too. Brannock and his friends are a pretty laid-back group of quasi-serious wiffle ball enthusiasts who pitch at hittable speeds to one another and seemingly don't play with a competitive rage that turns off the majority of people who value fun over winning.
The field began out rough and the group of friends had to spend time and effort clearing out trees and bushes for the area to come to be a field: there was grass up to their knees.
It has since had some challenges, though. The recent flooding the area experienced wiped out any chance of an early start to the wiffle ball season for Brannock and washed away the grass-seed he had spread a short time earlier.
“I woke up one day and the water was already here,” he said, standing in deep left field. “Then about a a week later, it went up over the wall and it was really depressing.”
There is no base-running in this particular arrangement, but instead, there are lines painted on the field that indicate a single and double—a triple is against the wall. A home run is obviously over the wall, which is made of PVC piping and green construction fencing.
“It's not really a league, it's more of a community,” he said. “The group of guys we have decided to put some money together so that we could get some shirts, get some cool stuff for the field.”
Last year, the group managed to organize a celebrity tournament that featured former NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen and comedian Jay Mohr. The event raised money for the Free Store Food Bank which raised enough for 9,000 meals for the organization and attracted reporters from ESPN Magazine.
“It was a rainy day and as soon as we were getting ready to play, it cleared right up.”
Brannock also hang out around the fire pit, watch movies on an outdoor projector and have an ideal spot for the Labor Day fireworks on the river. This season, Brannock is in talks about hosting an all-star game against a team from the Wiffle Association of Northern Kentucky (WANK) to commemorate the MLB All-Star Game being hosted in Cincinnati this season.
The field has a corporate sponsor in TQ Constructors from Dayton.
Brannock invites any wiffle ball enthusiast to come play, but $50 gets you on a team every Wednesday in addition to the special events and weekend games that crop up.
So while it may not quite be summer just yet, the sound of plastic home runs in Bellevue along the river tells some that it's on deck.
Story & photos by Bryan Burke, associate editor