ESSEX — A fun atmosphere and competitive action on the field highlighted the 18th annual Travis Roy Foundation WIFFLE Ball Tournament last weekend at Little Fenway, Little Wrigley and Little Field of Dreams.
The 32-team event raised a record-shattering $721,500, topping the previous high of $617,634 from last year. This year’s fundraising effort boosted the 18-year total to just under $6 million. It is the fifth time in the last six years the Vermont backyard event has raised over a half-million dollars.
All funds go to the Travis Roy Foundation that benefits and creates awareness for people with spinal cord injuries. The foundation is named after the former Boston University men’s hockey player who resides with his family in nearby Mallets Bay in Colchester each summer.
“It’s so incredible what goes on here,” Roy said while thanking everyone involved. “Eighteen years we have been doing this. There are so many pieces to the puzzle and stories of the magic that goes on here. We are in a ‘cow field’ in Essex, Vermont — not in Manhattan — raising $700,000, just about $6 million (total). The numbers are staggering and I hope you feel this when I say it: It’s because of all of you. You get excited about the WIFFLE ball and holding that yellow bat in your hands, but you also have a pride in how you care in what we are doing here, and have that hope for a better day. You guys give me and all of us that are dealing with this the energy to know that people want to see that better day. And it also leads to the research and the funding we need.”
The tournament is played annually on fields that are smaller-scale replicas of three of the nation’s iconic ballparks.The venue was developed by tourney founders Pat and Beth O’Connor. It is now maintained by the Travis Roy Foundation.
The action on the field was highlighted by the HOTDAM, one of the seven original teams out of Williston, capturing its fourth tourney championship by defeating the Rutland Juggernauts in the title game. HOTDAM’s John Lenhart, a longtime participant, was named tournament MVP.
Other exceptional performances on the field included the tournament’s first no-hitter, tossed by Cougar Nation’s Keith Carter. Will Sleeper and the Boston Terriers earned the Tommy Long Sportsmanship Award. South Burlington’s Saul Skrocki earned the Kim Trahan Fundraising Leadership Award.
Members of the Maine Hardshells, boyhood friends of Travis Roy’s from Yarmouth, Maine, raised just under $60,000. As a result, they won the Fan Club Award as the top fundraising team.
Also with over $50,000 this year, the Boston Beef were recognized for eclipsing the $1 million mark. A pair of longtime tournament organizers, Essex’s Tim Gendron and South Burlington’s Bruce Bosley, were inducted into the Little Fenway Hall of Fame for their volunteer service.
The tournament kicked off Friday with the opening ceremonies and the annual Celebrity-Sponsor game. Award-winning journalist Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and ESPN headlined the celebrities. The evening also featured former big league hurler Bill Lee. Others included current UVM all-conference goalie Stefanos Lekkas, award-winning baseball author Glenn Stout, Miss Vermont USA Bethany Garrow, Vermont Lake Monsters general manager Joe Doud and UVM Director of Athletics Jeff Schulman. Dave Mullany, CEO of Wiffle Inc. and grandson of the inventor of WIFFLE ball, was recognized on Saturday.