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Korby's Corner...Our game

A crew of Cloquet alumni play a best-of-three series of wiffleball games during the July 4 Celebration in Cloquet's Veterans Park. The pickup games in between featured games also drew a good crowd of mostly younger participants. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 3
It was Eric Peterson's turn to organize the tournament and Tyler Korby's turn to pitch, whether his curveball curves or not. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 3
The younger boys and girls congratulate each other for a game well played.3 / 3

Although my Hall of Fame fastball lags velocity, my curveball doesn't curve and my changeup has always been hittable, I love pitching wiffleballs.

I used to do it every day, along with my friends.

Growing up, wiffleball is what we played from just after breakfast until dusk. My Sunnyside backyard served our own Field of Dreams, as kids arrived by sneaker, by bike and by van.

The lines were painted sharply and grass tightly mowed. Skinny yellow bats and plastic balls whistled around the miniature diamond as the same kids would show up for our daily tournaments.

Yes, I said tournaments.

After setting the schedule, it was pool play games until lunch time. After taking a break to eat, bracket play started and soon a champion would be declared. We all then shook hands, went off to evening ball practice and returned the next morning for more.

We had our own set of rules that everyone knew. We groomed the field daily, umpired our own games and even recorded statistics. Later we developed a full-time league. It was our own little world, right her in Cloquet.

As we grew older and stronger, we moved from my yard to my good friend and next door neighbor Eric Peterson's property. A chain link fence then served as a home run instead of the pines at my place.

We continued to play every day, until high school, jobs and girlfriends came into the picture. As I went off to college and things got busier, our league fizzled out and our daily games dwindled.

Nowadays, we play once a year, in our citywide tournament on Memorial Day.

Last Wednesday, though, we all got back together.

Participating in a Fourth of July celebratory set of games organized by Peterson and the July Fourth Celebration Committee, we classics all played an alumni series in the corner of Veterans Park.

Only the location was different. (And the ages.)

Just as it was years back, we voted captains, guessed a number to see who got first pick and drafted our teams. I served as a captain, along with Cloquet's Dedric Clark.

Alumni wiffleball players last week included me, Peterson (who will be a CHS senior next year), Thomas Rogers, Dennis Conklin and Peter LaCourse, against Clark, Thomas Jezierski, Connor Stowell, Ryan Korby and Michael Hill. All of us are seasoned players.

Like always, strikes were thrown, plays were made and Rogers even hit a home run over the temporary left centerfield fence.

Wearing my flashy T-Ball glove, I pitched both complete game wins, as we swept Clark's squad to win the three-game series before a small crowd.

Results and fans aside, everyone was in the zone, fielding bunts, taking extra bases and still increasing their knowledge of the game. Of course we still had fun, enjoyed the day and at times, batted left-handed, too.

I believe it's been the game of wiffleball that has developed our passion for baseball and our sense of the sport. All of us played baseball for the Lumberjacks and many were a part of stellar section and state squads.

Sure, wiffleball is an addicting backyard hobby, but for us, it's what we truly enjoy doing. We'd play any day, any time, any place.

Speaking of any place, Veterans Park is the perfect spot. Smack dab in the middle of town, the city park is a great venue for kids to play and like we have done already, set up thousands of more games for the future.

I can already see the younger generation enjoying the game these days, too. As I also umpired during the earlier wiffleball games last Wednesday while dozens of kids played, it made me proud to see hitting, pitching and defense, while both boys and girls kept score, had fun and learned the game as we did as youngsters.

I'll drive by and see little kids playing at Peterson's every day now, too.

I hope they continue playing more and more. Just like I continued throwing my fastball, curve and change. Every day, with my friends. What a perfect summer pastime.

Pine Journal sports writer Tyler Korby is a member of the National Wiffleball Hall of Fame.