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2022 CT Wiffs Review: League Evaluations



In the CT Wiffs Review was first created in 2021, the goal of the rankings was to encourage the growth and development of backyard-level Wiffle®Ball in the State of Connecticut. This "growth and development" aspect applies to many things: the crop of player talent largely unheard of outside of individual leagues, the teams that played through a variety of season formats and conditions, and - above all else - the backyard leagues themselves. It is with these leagues that youth interest in Wiffle®Ball largely exists. Without them, the vast exposure and interest for the future of sport would cease to exist.


So, with all that is owed in gratitude to these leagues, I felt it would be fitting to assess their performance as an organization over the past year. This review is less concerned with the pure player/team talent available to each league. That ranking is what has already been discussed across the Top 25 Players, Top 15 Teams, "All-State" Teams, and more. What is more important in these evaluations is the growth and structure of each league. Did the league have a solid and exciting season that was completed from start to finish? How engaged were teams and players across the league's season? How well did the league manage their social media platforms? How good is the talent of players and teams as a whole? These factors and more were the basis for each league's assessment, which hopefully - as you will find in reading this - provides meaningful feedback that will help these leagues grow and expand into 2023 and beyond.


Now, here are the league evaluations for 2022, presented BEAUTIFULLY in alphabetical order...


Darien Wiffle Ball League

2022 Rating: C-

Location: Darien, CT

Number of Teams: 10 (Expanded to 14 Teams Mid-Season)

Number of Players: 120

Top 25 Players: 8

Top 15 Teams: 4


Pros:

  • High player talent level from the league's best players

  • Expansion into neighboring towns

  • High-quality media content on Instagram, YouTube


Cons:

  • Season not completed (regular season shortened, no postseason)

  • Imbalanced pitching rules

  • Very inconsistent social media updates


Coming off of the thrills of the 2021 season, the Darien Wiffle Ball League looked to continue to cement itself as the standard for backyard Wiffle®Ball. With a solid YouTube presence that had over three seasons of content and a player group that included some of the best young players in the State, it really seemed like league commissioner Braden Schenck could do no wrong. When I spoke with him in a March 2022 recording for the Scuffin' It Up podcast (if you have not listened to the show yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Check it out HERE, it's the second episode of the first season), Schenck and his staff really seemed committed to the growth of the sport by any means. Whether it be through bringing in non-Darien natives to join, or by integrating the league through school clubs and organizations, the DWBL wanted to be a catalyst for the growth of the sport by any means necessary.


As it would play out in 2022, however, that "any means necessary" approach seemed to be the main culprit for the league's downfall. Not more than a third of the way through the season, the DWBL decided to allow four teams to join the league mid-season. While this inclusion seemed good at first, the additions made the league's logistics very difficult. League executives cited how difficult it was to schedule series now with teams playing on completely different timetables, let alone the league now having fourteen teams. With so many games going on from the moment the season started in May, Schenck and his crew struggled to get content out without avoiding long delays in production. Combining this with the lack of media content being posted along with the season and the lack of stats being recorded by the league - some teams did not even report them to the league - following the season's progress became extremely difficult. Much like this paragraph's structure, the production of the DWBL's 2022 season was a runaway train of messes that, while recognized to be too much for them to handle, it was recognized far too late to rectify.

Barely able to keep the season moving, the league found itself in problems on the field. Surprisingly, the issue stemmed with one of the league's best features: its large list of high-talent players and teams. Beginning with the 2022-expansion Black Bears and spreading among a group of teams, players became increasingly annoyed with the league's lack of pitching speed limit rules. With many of the expansion teams not having the talent to compete with the DWBL's elite, some midfield and "bottom-half" teams (for lack of a better word) felt that the competitive gap between themselves and top players prevented them from standing a legitimate chance for not only competing for wins, but for having any enjoyment while playing regardless of the outcome. The imbalance was so disliked that the aforementioned Black Bears posted an online petition on Change.org that asked the league to make immediate changes to enact a speed limit. When it comes to this competitive balance issue in backyard-level leagues, I personally believe there should be a difference between an inexperienced rookie player and an ace like Sam Donnelly or Gordon Washburn (a pair of players who continued to dominate in 2022). That being said, not giving all players some reasonable shot at standing a chance in a non-fully-competitive league like the DWBL is a risky endeavor. An endeavor that, with the overall player talent the league has, can and did discourage a sizable group players from wanting to continue playing in the league. As a result of these issues - including the aforementioned logistics issues with the teams and league - the league's regular season was halted in early June and entered into a hiatus, one that it would never return out of.


Looking back at the season's events, it is obvious that the Darien Wiffle Ball League really took on too much more than it could realistically handle. The 2022 season for Connecticut's top backyard league felt like a big "what if": had they managed to successfully take on the large project they brought upon themselves, the DWBL could have been well set for a long, sustainable future. Instead, the league took steps backwards to the point where its future operation is in critical jeopardy. With the league now set for what will be its fifth and final season in 2023, I can hope that things can end with a bang of joy like the past, rather than a long, painful whimper like the season that just went by. For a league with as good of a run as theirs, it seems fair to suggest that the DWBL and its community deserves better.



Griswold Wiffleball League

2022 Rating: C+

Location: Griswold, CT

Number of Teams: 4

Number of Players: 20

Top 25 Players: 5

Top 15 Teams: 2


Pros:

  • Score updates from all games, series throughout the season

  • Full season statistics


Cons:

  • No highlights, social media content outside of final scores

  • No updates on completion of the postseason (Championship Series)


With its first "mainstream" season in 2022, the Griswold Wiffleball League put on a solid product that got it noticed among young wifflers in the eastern parts of the State. With updates provided with the results of each series, players and fans could easily follow the progress of their teams all season long, a feature that helped the league get noticed for this year's CT Wiffs Review. While not able to provide any game highlights to show off the league in-action, the ability to track stats and key performers of each game helped to identify some of the GWL's marquee players, teams, and moments.


With no major breaks that delayed the progress of the season, the GWL's campaign went through its motions without a hitch, a positive sign for a league that has remain unknown before this year. Sure, the league did not go over-the-top with its field, produce MLW-like YouTube highlights for each series, or have much in the way of supplemental material. But it did have a strong foundation of Wiffle®Ball being played that makes me excited to see where the league progresses in the seasons to come.



Norwalk Family Wiffleball League

2022 Rating: B

Location: Norwalk, CT

Number of Teams: 8

Number of Players: 40

Top 25 Players: 0

Top 15 Teams: 3


Pros:

  • Game highlights for most series (on Instagram)

  • Team account pages active throughout the season

  • Great parity between teams

  • Great game atmosphere


Cons:

  • Full season statistics not publicly accessible online

  • Limited social media outreach (no Twitter, YouTube, TikTok)


Until this summer, I did not think that there would be the need to have a second "larger-scale" Wiffle®Ball League in the Town of Norwalk given the existence of the SoNo Wiffle Ball League. That was, until I discovered the Norwalk Family Wiffleball League (or NFWL for short).


Representing Norwalk's northside, the NFWL's third season in 2022 was one of the best in the State. With a robust lineup of eight competing teams with around 40 players, the NFWL found a fantastic balance between competition and fun. Every game and series the series provided this year was filled with joy and energy, with a big home run or strikeout being the only thing needed to erupt the players into celebration. Most teams - if not all - had their standout moments of their own, as a lot of the league's best moments were available directly through the league's Instagram account or an account belonging to one of the teams. With coverage coming from many different viewpoints throughout the season, there were only a few instances where an onlooker may be lost as to know what was happening during any point in the season. This is crucial to helping expose your league to the masses, and I am glad the NFWL took this step to display itself in 2022.


The league had itself a number of players and teams rise to be noticed at the State level, some of them being in consideration to be a part of the CT Wiffs Review. Had their been full stats available to analyze, that number could have easily increased from the zero players and three teams that made the rankings. But as seen in highlights, their exclusion from the rankings this year does not mean they talent-wise do not have what it takes to make it in the years ahead.

If the league is able to expand its content with more updates and stats in 2023, I feel that the work of commissioner Brian Weiss could be onto something special. Only time will tell where this league will take its potential next.



SoNo Wiffle Ball League

2022 Rating: A-

** 2022 CT Wiffs Review League of the Year **

Location: Norwalk, CT

Number of Teams: 8

Number of Players: 32

Top 25 Players: 11

Top 15 Teams: 3


Pros:

  • High-level player talent among the league's best players

  • Great competitive balance among teams

  • Hosting of "open" tournaments, including an exhibition "Northside VS Southside" series against the Norwalk Family Wiffleball League

  • Improved social media updates compared to 2021 season

  • Introduction of publicly-available season stats on MyStatsOnline website


Cons:

  • "Pause" of social media updates mid-season before playoffs

  • Limited game highlights available on social media


With competition from several neighboring leagues, the SoNo Wiffle Ball League had itself a season to remember in 2022. With an expansion to eight teams, the use of league-wide team jerseys for the first time, and the grueling assignment of a 30-game regular season - among other things - the league really pushed to present itself as an organization to be reckoned with for backyard Wiffle®. With the diligence of commissioner Jeff Cocchia and tournament director Brian Ehlers, their expansion was a resounding success.


The league's expansion did not do much to hurt the league's spread of talent. Many of the eight teams were in playoff contention for much of the season, making each game and series meaningful and (ultimately) exciting. With each team able to beat the other on their day, the chase for the SNWL title was tightly contested, culminating in a dramatic finish that saw the Puff Peppers win their first championship. Even for teams that realistically did not have a shot at the title, the ability to improve and even play spoiler in some series made the fight among the top teams that much more interesting. Throughout all of the teams, several of the league's key players - including some new ones - had excellent showings throughout the season, helping solidify the SNWL as a force to be reckoned with across CT Wiffs. My only gripe with the league season was the lack of consistent social media updates. Outside of the postseason and end-of-year awards announcements, most series went without any media coverage from the SNWL official social media pages, making following the league only possible for insiders within the league and those who followed the updated online statistics pages throughout the season. Improving further on this front with some game highlights - even if just small clips - would really help for onlookers to stay updated and engaged with a league that should not be ashamed to promote its best moments.


Beyond their own league, the SNWL has continued to improve their collaboration efforts with other players and leagues across the State. They continued their tournament series with a preseason tournament in March, and even challenged the up-and-coming NFWL to an All-Star exhibition series after their season concluded in July. Commissioner Cocchia has also remained adamant at adopting some sort of backyard-level State championship, a series of tournaments which may finally debut in 2023 should other leagues agree to enter. The thoughtfulness to keep in touch with other leagues and invite them to compete shows the SNWL's commitment to help grow the sport towards a more sustainable future, an initiative that is very uncommon among backyard Wiffle® leagues anywhere.

Overall, the SNWL continues to make great strides to building its case as the best backyard Wiffle®Ball league in the State. With old leagues like the DWBL and the CWBL shut down or close to shutting down, that title for #1 league in Connecticut may now officially be getting passed to the guys in South Norwalk.



Stamford Wiffleball League

2022 Rating: C-

Location: Stamford, CT

Number of Teams: 4

Number of Players: 20

Top 25 Players: 1

Top 15 Teams: 1


Pros:

  • Great enthusiasm among league players

  • Promising young talent


Cons:

  • Social media updates were highly inconsistent

  • Sporadic end-of-season schedule

  • Lack of consistent league management


Without much media coverage, stats, or any knowledge present online; it is really tough to assess the Stamford Wiffleball League as an organization in 2022. At times, such as when I visited them during their Spring playoffs in early June, the young league seemed to provide some initial promise in both player talent and support. But at others, like during the "summer break" after those playoffs, the league seemed to be in complete shambles without a clear direction for the future. Without getting more insider information, it is hard to speak on this league with any sense of objection any further. Heck, it is possible that the league has already folded following their social media absence on Instagram since their Fall League preseason in late August.


I hope this league is not already dead after two seasons, but I cannot help but fear the worst. If it were not for their successful Spring 2022 season, this rating could have been A LOT worse. Here's to hoping that Wiffle®action in Stamford is not dead on arrival.



Wiff Or Be Wiffed

2022 Rating: B+

Location: New Caanan, CT

Number of Teams: 6

Number of Players: 24

Top 25 Players: 0

Top 15 Teams: 2


Pros:

  • Great media content (hype video, power rankings)

  • Great field location

  • Interesting league theme (U.S. military divisions)

  • Full season statistics


Cons:

  • No mid-season updates on social media (Instagram); postseason/Championship Series only


Over the past two years, no league has caught my eye more than Wiff Or Be Wiffed. Based out of New Caanan, the league has been around since 2016 and has now really to hit its stride as an organization. While not focusing purely on talent or regional competition, this league breathes a sense of backyard feel that no other league in the State can bring. They do their own thing: playing in a residential utopia known as Skyview Stadium, naming all six of their teams' names after divisions of the United States military - Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Space Force, and Boy Scouts (it might be the only one that's a stretch, but it works for me), and just doing the one thing we all dream of: playing summertime Wiffle®Ball with a slice of friendly competition. WOBW does not try to be like MLW or any other league: they just do their own special thing - seemingly isolated from the rest of the backyard wiffs community, and it works year after year.


While their media coverage is far from "all-inclusive" across the season, what this league does produce for social media is well-composed and interesting. If this league does not ooze fun from the moment you watch their annual preseason hype video, then I do not know what will. It continues to be a video that brings me joy every time I watch it, almost making me wish that I could have that kind of backyard league when I was younger. Every video and post seems to radiate this backyard atmosphere that I cannot find elsewhere, and it makes everything just feel special. When you read the carefully-crafted preseason power rankings or team previews before the playoff series, you just know that there is genuine dedication going into this league. The "vibe" (so to speak) of their content fits their use case perfectly, and it more than makes up for the lack of "jumping-off-the-screen" player talent clearly visible in other leagues.


With what WOBW has accomplished up through the end of 2022, I would love to see them expand and collaborate with the rest of the State's backyard Wiffle® community. With much of the game's activity down there, I would love to see what this league is made of compared to the rest. But beyond that and getting more updates to follow the season - a sentiment I share with almost EVERY league this past year - there is very little to fuss about here. It may not have the recognizable players and name throughout, but it does everything else exceptionally well. Here is to many more great seasons



Westport Wiffleball League

2022 Rating: D+

Location: Westport, CT

Number of Teams: N/A

Number of Players: N/A

Top 25 Players: 0

Top 15 Teams: 0


Pros:

  • High-quality media content

  • Great field setup


Cons:

  • No game score updates, stats throughout the season


I am just going to say it as quickly as possible. No social media updates on their season apart from a few general posts of gameplay and who won the league title at season's end. Even if their season was excellent as it has been in years hone by, there is nothing to adjudicate here. Not even their famous field at Cardinal Park can save them from a below-average rating this year. No public updates = no good rating. Simple as that.


***


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