On Saturday, Aug. 19, Waters Field in Vienna will become Yankee Stadium. And Wrigley Field. And Fenway Park. In fact, 10 fields will be built on the new, high-endurance turf, each loosely modeled after a famous American baseball stadium. On those diamonds, 56 teams of all ages, from 13 to the young-at-heart, will vie for the championship title in the all-American sport of whiffle ball.
The Northern Virginia Whiffle Ball World Series, now some 11 years old, will be held this year to raise money for the Brian Bedell 2-Young Foundation.
Bedell grew up in Vienna, graduated from Oakton High School and spent a good chunk of his life playing sports on Waters Field. He and his friends organized the Whiffle Ball World Series more or less annually since the mid-'90s. Proceeds from the event were donated to various non-profit organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation and the Special Olympics.
Last year, Bedell died of brain cancer at the age of 35. This year's proceeds, like last year's, will be donated, through the 2-Young Foundation, largely to the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. Some of the funds will assist families struggling with a brain cancer diagnosis, and a small portion will go to Vienna Youth Inc., one of the leagues through which Bedell played sports.
The 2-Young Foundation was an idea that Bedell conceived after his diagnosis in 2003. Last year, said his wife and the foundation's president, Amy, it raised over $70,000, about $40,000 of which came from the whiffle ball tournament. The rest came from a golf tournament. This year, she said, she hopes to raise $50,000 from the Aug. 19 event.
The golf tournament may or may not be held this year, due to time constraints, she said. Last year, it was held in the fall, after the whiffle ball tournament had taken place in the spring. This year, however, the whiffle ball event, previously held in Herndon, was put off until summer so that it could take place in Bedell's home town. "We wanted to have it at Waters Field this year because that's where Brian grew up and played sports in Vienna," she said.
Bedell said the foundation contributes to Duke's brain tumor center because that is where her husband received his treatments and participated in clinical trials, and because the center is "on the cutting edge" of brain cancer research. "In the future we may contribute to other organizations," she said. "But that's one of our main goals — to contribute to the center."
She said she also feels strongly about assisting families dealing with brain cancer because she remembers her husband being unable to work while he was undergoing treatment. This effort is independent of Duke's program.
Brain cancer, though less common than other forms of cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer death in men ages 25 to 39, she said. Thus, the name "2-Young" applies to more than just her husband's death.
MIKE RYAN, the foundation's vice president, director of the tournament and Brian Bedell's best friend, said he hopes the Whiffle Ball World Series, never before held in Vienna, will become a town tradition.
"It will probably be one of the best events of the year, if we get good, sunny weather," he said.
Registration opened at the beginning of July and is now sold out, with nearly 250 people slated to play. Teams of four or so people will be assigned to 14 different divisions for a playoff that will run from 9 a.m. to around 7 in the evening. This year, there will also be a children's tournament, with registration available on the morning of the event.
"Last year, we had tons of kids running around wondering why they couldn't play," Ryan said. Also being added are various children's attractions, including a moon bounce, face painting and local high school mascots.
"When it's all said and done, there's going to be easily 300 people out there playing whiffle ball," he said. "It's unique in that way. How often do you get together some high school sophomores, some dads and a couple of granddads?"
This, said Ryan, is the magic of whiffle ball. "It definitely brings out the youth in all of us," he said, adding that it is also a sport that anyone can play, as it requires no running or high level of skill. "It's all about hitting the ball. And having fun."
The event will also include a silent auction and raffle, to be held on the upper level of the fire station across the street from the field. The games will be broadcast into the station, said Ryan.
Refreshments will be provided by the Vienna Inn, with Vienna Youth Inc. running the concession stands. Some 75 volunteers will be running the event, which is being made possible by numerous local sponsors and vendors. It will begin with a home run derby between U.S. Rep. Tom Davis and Del. Steve Shannon.
"People have just all rallied behind the cause," said Ryan.
Another local who made the tournament possible, he said, was Vienna Youth Inc. Vice President Mark Meana, who secured the permit for the foundation to use Waters Field. He said the tournament had to wait for the period between baseball and football season.
Meana coached Bedell and several of the tournament's organizers in both football and basketball during the mid-'80s, and he said they had remained in contact since.
"He was a coach's dream," he said of Bedell. "He did everything you asked him for, he was a tremendous athlete, and, most importantly, he was a great team player."
The tournament will be held rain or shine, said Ryan. "It's on, no matter what."