The History of Griffleball
For numerous years during their childhood, Ryan Galiher and Kyle Lidster would spend their summer afternoons playing 1-on-1 wiffleball games in Galiher's front yard. Given their youth, the two of them had many wholesome elements to their games, such as heavily taping cracked wiffleballs since they had neither the budget nor the transportation to buy new ones. At times, Lidster would even wear a baseball batting helmet to protect himself from these rock-like wiffleballs from striking him in the head. The GBL as we know it has adopted many of the rules from these games, including the ball of choice (Easton Poly-Molded Practice Baseball), and the two outs per inning and five balls for a walk formats. Rules from these games that were not adopted by the GBL include throwing a fielded ground ball to a target for an out.
The year of 2009 saw a huge advancement to Ryan Galiher's and Kyle Lidster's wiffleball games. That summer, Galiher and Lidster played on a local baseball team with Jeremy Ratajczyk, and invited him, along with Jamar Averyhart, to play 2-on-2 wiffleball games in Galiher's front yard. The teams were Galiher and Ratajczyk vs Lidster and Averyhart. Upon playing just one of these games, the four kids discovered an immediate love for fast-pitch, competitive wiffleball. The two teams battled throughout the entire summer until Lidster and Averyhart left home for college.
Following the fun-filled summer of 2009, the four boys were chomping at the bit to play more wiffleball. There was one rather large problem for 2010, however, as Galiher's family had moved to Texas over the winter. The four boys feared they would have no place to fulfill their wiffleball dreams this summer. But as everyone in the GBL knows, Jeremy Ratajczyk and Kyle Lidster will not take "no" for an answer when the threat of not being able to play wiffleball is an issue. June 4th, 2010 will always be a memorable night in Griffleball history, as it was the night that the Griffle Grounds were discovered. On that night, Kyle Lidster and Jeremy Ratajczyk set out in Ratajczyk's car to find a new field for 2010. Ratajczyk's first idea was to play in the volunteer police car parking lot on Liable Rd., as this site was very close to his house and he had noticed the open lot, as well as parking lights that stayed lit through all hours of the night. Upon getting out of the car and setting foot in the lot, they realized that the parking lot was realistically unplayable for wiffleball games, and the two of them were once again stumped for an idea of where to play. But as they walked back to the car, they noticed bright lights coming from beyond the parking lot. What could be lit this brightly at 10 o'clock at night? They decided to go check it out. As they got closer and closer to the lights, they noticed exactly what it was they were walking to - an asphalt basketball court with four beaming light posts!!!! Upon making this discovery, the Griffle Grounds were officially formed. After a day of experimenting with different ideas of what would be the best way to set up the field, they decided to place home plate underneath the south basketball hoop, which was the brightest lit spot of the court. They then drew chalk lines connecting to two of the light posts, making them the foul lines; and very fittingly, the two light posts would be the foul poles. The first official GBL sanctioned game was played on the night of June 6, with Ratajczyk and Galiher (GasHouse Gorillas) defeating Lidster and Averyhart (Thunder). Word quickly got out around the town about the new wiffleball league, and over fifteen new players would be recruited throughout the summer. 2010 featured a league of strictly 2-player teams. Players were allowed to be on as many teams as they would like.
While 2010 was the foundation season for the league, 2011 saw the league grow by leaps and bounds. Instead of having 2-player teams, Commissioner Ratajczyk decided to have three and four-player teams. While the amount of teams in the GBL decreased because of the change, the league would benefit tremendously. The total number of teams went down from 16 to just 6; but with three and-four man rosters, rivalries were established and the league got even more competitive. The GBL also decided to add team jerseys to the fold in 2011. While the jerseys weren't the flashiest of t-shirts, they were perfect for the league at the time. Each team had a different color t-shirt with their team name written in white lettering across the front. The GasHouse Gorillas and Stallionaires still wear those uniforms to this day as throwbacks. The 2011 season was also the first time that the league added walk-up music and full play-by-play broadcasts for World Series games. The GBL also became part of the National Wiffleball League Association (NWLA) in 2011.
The 2012 season was another stepping stone in helping make the GBL into the elite wiffleball league that it is today. In addition to recruiting more players from around the region, the GBL also gained NATIONAL recognition by participating in the NWLA Tournament in Columbus, OH. The NWLA Tournament consisted of wiffleball leagues from across the country who were currently a member of the NWLA. Each league sent their best players to compete in the tournament in hopes of winning the first ever true National Wiffleball Title. While the GBL only went 2-4 at the tournament and did not fare too well, the league still made a name for itself on a national scale. The GBL has participated at the NWLA Tournament every year since then, and placed as high as 6th place in 2015.
The 2013 and 2014 seasons will most likely be remembered as seasons in which the league saw some of its most familiar and beloved faces step away from the game. But, those seasons will also be remembered as seasons in which the GBL withstood the test of time. Kyle Lidster announced before the start of the 2013 season that he would no longer be able to play GBL games consistently, as he would end up moving out of the area. Two other crucial members of the GBL, Jeff Strbjak and Zac Adams, also had to step away from the league for personal reasons.
But here we are at the conclusion of the 2015 season and the GBL is stronger and more popular than ever. A league-record 28 different players appeared in a GBL game in the 2015 season; and throughout the course of the league's existence, 81 different people have played at least one game of Griffleball. The GBL now has its own Media Coordinator, Tyler Walk, who posts a video and a blog every week to sum up and preview news across the league. Teams went from having one bland jersey in the league's early years to having multiple sharp-looking jerseys in recent years. The league went from having one field with scribbled sidewalk chalk for foul lines to having two fields with painted foul lines. The GBL has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snap Chat. Either clips or full recordings of nearly 30 different games have been uploaded throughout the season. Griffleball is becoming a part of baseball-lovers' culture in Northwest Indiana. Maybe one day it will become a part of baseball-lovers' culture on an even greater scale.