By, John Leicht
As the league continues to look for innovative ideas to increase the exposure and fun for the SWBL I wanted to share my experience from playing in the first SWBL Game One, to paint a picture of what it was like playing in a fully produced game and share my thoughts on the experience. Most of Sam’s ideas are good; this one was great. I hope Game One is a tradition that stays around for a while and I hope that over the course of the next several years all of you get a chance to participate.
The anticipation leading up to the game was great, it felt very similar to the buildup for Opening Day – you know you’re not going to get all of it but playing one game and sneaking a taste is all you need. Parking in the front yard, and because Sam told everyone to arrive at the same time, players congregated out front. We’d chat, catch up and when it was time for us to walk in, another car would pull up with one or two more players. Repeat the process until most everyone from both teams was together.
So the Brewers and Expos walk in together around the side of the house, past the garage and into left field. The first thing I noticed was that the field looked great (I know this will shock absolutely no one). The weather was peak SWBL, believe we were in the 80s with very little cloud cover and plenty of sun. The youngest Skibbes were toddling around behind the fence in the pool area. That feeling was awesome. The front office was hard at work along the first base sideline, Sam barking orders. That pregame work from the front office continued for 45 minutes, players chatting for a while before we took BP - Brewers hit first with Derek Cornell on the mound for 10 minutes before they cleared the field and the Expos got their turn to swing at some Jimmy Nelson pitches.
The prep work that went into the weekend was apparent. There were multiple cameras set up around the field (I never knew there was one out in center field until I watched the video), our announcers were filming their pregame analysis. Obviously the bulk of this falls on Sam and it was clear he had a vision; he wanted to fully produce Game One was to give a new opportunity to highlight not only our field but also for the wiffle world to get to know our league and our players on a more personal level. It took hard work from a lot of people to execute this. Gus drove in from KC to be an on field commentator and Spencer Bogad was there to keep stats. Edloe showed up to announce and did a great job, even if his pregame pick was sus. Scott and Kevin were running around in the heat before and during the game getting as many shots as they could, they were the true heros of the day. Sam's stepson, Jackson was there as well, helping with the audio, that was very cool to see.
The pregame anticipation grew as it became clear the prep work was done. You could tell players were getting more and more excited as the moment neared. I was given an ear bud for my left ear (more on that later) before taking the field for the top of the first. “Let’s play some ball” was screamed by Jeremy Worrell. In true SWBL fashion, we started the game 5-10 minutes early.
From that point you saw the video, which speaks for itself. Good game.
From a player’s perspective, you all should want to play in Game One next year. Period. End of sentence. The Brewers and Expos were able to knock some of the rust off, get rid of a few of the preseason jitters. I think all nine players who played have more confidence coming out of that game then going in. It will reduce the workload Memorial Weekend by one game, which for these old legs is huge. Furthermore, if you don’t want to be mic’d up just get out of this league. We should do that for regular season games. I think it’s interesting to hear what people say on the field. I hope you all enjoyed my rambling and there are several people who I would love to hear mic’d up, too many to name in fact.
Most importantly, when Game One is released for Season 20, WATCH IT. The fans were missed at The Blur and in the video. The audience watching is part of the atmosphere that we’ve all come to know and love.
Final Note: Kaye and Kevin Skibbe were gracious hosts as always. Appreciate them letting us crash at their house for a few hours the weekend before the big one.
Sam told me after the game that he hopes this becomes a tradition that teams want to be a part of year after year. Mission accomplished.