Colonie WIFFLE Ball 2021
It’s that time of year again. Though the weather of the northeast says we should be readying the shovels, hats, and gloves again. But Ilyadis Field is being prepped for its twenty-fourth season and it is season number thirty-two for Colonie WIFFLE Ball. The second season in which we will be facing conditions with the ongoing global pandemic. Our policies are still in place from last year and having dealt with it for a whole season, it won’t hinder us in terms of a start date this year. It’s why we are able to start six weeks sooner than last year and two weeks earlier than normal. We know the players and our audience are ready and, in a time, where people need something to turn to, we are ready to do exactly that to show a little bit of “normal”. Baseball has shown that kind of power, so why not WIFFLE Ball?
Coming into this year, the Pirates return as champions for the first time since 2015 after defeating the Yankees in six games in 2020. The Pirates got this all started late, last year when they went on a ten-game winning streak and took first place after being in third for the longest time. It’s a marathon and not a sprint for us with the number of games we play. The best pitchers and best hitters will go through slumps and weaknesses are exposed so the ability to adapt is crucial. The Pirates were in the right place, with the right mindset, and with the addition of Anthony Lavalley in June, they took off. But it wasn’t all Pirates in the headlines. They are the champs and over an experienced Yankee team and a Dodgers team that was predicted to maybe even win it all with the pitching rotation that they had which was one of our best in league history. Ryan Huber of the Dodgers won the league Cy Young Award in his sophomore season with another 100+ strikeout season and the league lead in wins. Zach Barr dominated on the hill in his rookie campaign with a 5-2 record and sub 3 ERA to capture the Rookie of The Year Award. John Marro played in his first season since 2013 and struggled to find his groove but found his way and helped the Yankees back into the World Series with a few homers. Gadani led the league with the most saves we’ve seen since 2015 with 7, hit 19 homers, and picked up his second straight MVP award. Josh Howland struggled through his first season as a team manager but was able to have a great year at the plate and have a 100+ strikeout season in his sophomore campaign. As a league, everyone played 45 games and we had 3 teams finish with an above .500 record mark. For a while in the beginning of the year, it was all series sweeps for the first ten series played of the year. Only three players finished with 20 or more homers on the year between Askew (21), Huber (20), and Ilyadis (31). We interviewed with the ‘The Times Union’ and our local ABC News outlet at two different points during our season as they were curious about the 30+ seasons of traditions we carry on and our ability to play during the pandemic with a new set of guidelines to go along with how we play. Looking ahead though, 2021 is going to be in somewhat of the same place but with a lot of positive hope, records in play, and headlines to watch out for.
The offseason brought about some of the biggest moves in league history. The Yankees after 23 seasons and 12 league championships folded as a franchise. They led in championships and had over 1000 franchise wins. Three of the Yankees went one way and that was Zach Kean, Pat Lasch, and rookie Mike Genito. Kean steps into the captain’s chair and takes his 12 seasons of experience with it. He also went to his roots from his first two seasons and has reformed the Marlins. Likely to build the rivalry with his first teammate (Lavalley). His first moves were stacking up the pitching with the additions of Ryan Huber and former Colonie WIFFLE Ball player and of many other leagues around the area, Jimmy Cole. This formulates a trio of pitchers which may be the best in the league and up there in terms of top rotations of all-time with Genito as the potential number three. With Pat’s .433 BA with 47 doubles and Kean’s .487 career average with 174 homers, they’ll have enough offense at the top especially when you add in Jimmy Cole.
The other remaining Yankees? Ilyadis and Marro. They went to join Lavalley’s (who left the 2020 champion Pirates), new, Expos squad. Lavalley, like Kean understood the importance of good pitching and although Ilyadis is a great number two, he’s going to be the likely number three in this rotation. Former Hess Field WIFFLE Ball star, Brian Kelly joins the league and the Expos with his dependable, arsenal of pitching weapons. To fill out the roster, Josh Longo also of HFWB was added. He brings a solid arm and is known for his leadoff capabilities. They also are the oldest by age team in the league. But, with Marro coming back for another season, he could be better and bring balance to the lineup with two guys who can constantly get on base for Ilyadis and Lavalley. The two have 250+ career homeruns so their bats have to be ready to help out their pitching and lead them into a great playoff run and possibly a bye if they are to grab the one seed.
And of course, lastly…the reigning champs. They had a great move in adding Josh Howland to their roster in late 2020 making a pretty good trio of pitchers themselves between Gadani, Howland, and Kalic. Josh will likely sit in the three-spot in this lineup. KG likely to lead off, Gadani batting second with his balanced approach of patience and power hitting, Howland, Kalic batting cleanup, and Hadzimuratovic batting fifth. The reigning champs definitely have a lot of patience built in that lineup and a great rotation. Not really blowing up the stat boards last year in terms of numbers, but they know how to go out and get W’s when they need to. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about anyway. There have been plenty of teams across the decades in this league that do not necessarily light up the stat boards but can go out and pick up wins and eventually, titles. Can they be the first repeat champions since 2008?
There are likely to be a lot of low scoring games. You’re likely to see four different arms on each team used a lot throughout the season and with it, not a bad matchup. But who is going to come out on top? Is there a new team on the horizon? And what other surprises does the league have in mind this year along with a couple of rule changes? It all starts in just three short weeks and 45 games later, plus an all-star game, and two rounds of playoffs, we will surely find out. It’s going to be a great year of WIFFLE Ball. The action will start with the Pirates against the Marlins. There will surely be tons of highlights and action to come across this year.
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