Wiffle ball boys make tournaments

Posted: August 10, 2014

Brian Miracle and his friends have been smacking Wiffle balls into the trees that shade his backyard in the Far Northeast since grade school. Now they do it for charity.

Five years ago, the games were simply a way to keep high school and club baseball team friends from drifting apart after the players grew too old for club baseball.

"We always played Wiffle ball when we were younger, before we had to work in the summer," Miracle said. "These guys were here every day."

Friday marked their fifth annual Wiffle Ball Extravaganza, and the second in which they raised money for the local charity Helen's Hope. Although much has changed since the first extravaganza - they have sponsors, custom $25 T-shirts, media attention - the game remains the same.

The now 18- to 21-year-olds split into eight teams of two, a pitcher and an outfielder who had to cover the Miracles' quarter-acre plot on Proctor Place in Somerton. Alternating teams manned the backyard continuously from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., while a dozen others watched from the deck and pool, bringing up old memories and inside jokes.

The games lasted about a half-hour each, and the single-elimination tournament's progress was recorded with a black marker on red poster board.

Brian's mother, Pat, suggested that the 16 friends dedicate their yearly reunion games to the foundation a month before last year's tournament.

"It was very last-minute - we didn't start soliciting and sending letters until a month or so before," Pat Miracle said. Still, they managed to raise more than $600.

This year, they started three months earlier, and raised more than $2,000.

In addition to the usual collection of neighboring families, and local pubs and companies, the Miracles attracted the Phillies, the Flyers, and Temple University as sponsors. Both pro teams donated tickets for a raffle. The proceeds go to Helen's Hope, a charity that provides food and gifts, and pays the utility bills of those dealing with cancer treatment.

Nick Ricci, whose mother, Peggy, founded Helen's Hope after his aunt died of breast cancer in 2007, said his mother "was thrilled" when the friends decided to play for the charity's cause.

"The mission at Helen's Hope is not like any charity I know," Ricci said, adding that his aunt "was always looking to help people."

Just before dinner time, Mike Palmer and Dan Schuhl came out on top. Despite her son's apparent loss, Pat Miracle called the event "a huge success."

"It was wonderful," she said. "It got really competitive - everyone was fired up."


LONeal@phillynews.com

215-854-2619 @LydsONeal

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