Monthly Archives: June 2011

Thoughts from the SLW Alumni Association


By SLWAA President Geoff Hixson

SLWAA President Geoff Hixson

We are now one week from our annual pilgrimage to the hallowed ground of Shangri La’. This fact carries with it a nice list of things that make me smile.

We will have the most level playing field to date, thanks to Chief Scientist Seph Lietz. The league welcomes back 2010’s two rookies in Derek Mayfield and Luke Kirby. We will mark the return of the prodigal son, Kevin Walsh,  from his “high-falutin’ wedding trip absence in 2010, with the hope he doesn’t destroy any more of the park or kill himself. We will again be treated to some of the best hospitality and food available from the Hall of Fame hostesses – Dee Dee and Charlene.

Look for an upgrade to the DJ booth/press box with a location and elevation change. There will be uniformity in the participants not seen in 18 years with the “great uniform experiment of 2011”. There is a groundswell of additional surprise happenings yet to be announced. Our press coverage from both print and video will again be increased with the photo and video commitment of the aforementioned Mayfield and Jeff Cain Productions, respectively.

As in years past, there will be grueling field prep all day Thursday. The annual Old/Young Series (a name that I believe will stick forever, even though neither tag is accurate) will take place on Friday.  And of course, Home Run Derby Friday night.

There will be camaraderie, catch-up time and an ongoing over-consumption of alcohol. There will be one champion and five “also rans.” There will be smack talk, debates on the future, exhaustion and bug bites. There will be heavy metal from Maxim Magazine’s iPod of the Year 2010. There will be a sense of family and fraternity. A sense of competitiveness, drive and fire most of us no longer get to exhibit on a regular basis, that will come out in the heat of battle.

There will be the self-proclaim of the greatness of the commissioner and all he has created (which kidding aside, is pretty well deserved). There will be memories that we be analyzed and re-analyzed for years to come. There will be a podcast or two. There will be pitchers on the fun island.

SLW Founder Bernard J. Alblinger throws out the pitch at the 6th Annual Shangri La' Classic.

Most of all, there will be talk of the patriarch of Shangri La’ Wiffleball – who will assume his usual seat by the back door with the best view in the park, next to his wife and his buddy/long- time neighbor. He will be happy to be back. He won’t be bothered by the problems of the day to day life. He won’t be too hot, too “full” or too tired. He will be back at his happiest for his favorite weekend of the year.

There is a reason this event has become what it is. Let us remember all those things we look forward to the rest of the year and enjoy it in the moment, like the Mayor loved to do.

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Breaking Down Barriers at Historic Lakefront Stadium


by Kevin Walsh, SLW Senior Writer

Senior SLW Writer, Kevin Walsh

With heavy metal music blaring, NASCAR the dominating topic of conversation, and enough cigarettes and dip to embarrass a non-gay cowboy, Shangri La’s Lakefront Stadium has long been as white as a clean pointed sheet. That remained the case until a beacon of darkness shone through the white in 2004 when James Morton made his wiffleball debut, 57 short years after Jackie Robinson.

What Morton found, or rather what found Morton, was a welcoming, fun loving group of wifflers who enjoyed nothing more than a few innings on the diamond, a shower in the lake and some of the best food north of the Mason-Dixon line all the while catching up with friends.

“Everyone has treated me very well over the years at Shangri La’,” Morton said. I was embraced immediately as just another wiffler even though clearly I had a better tan than everyone there-except for Spence. He is one bronze dude.”

The ease with which Morton was accepted, he feels, can be directly attributed to the fact that many wifflers attended nearby Unity High School, where as the name suggests bigotry and intolerance did not exist.

“Unity High School is probably one of the most diverse places I have ever heard of,” Morton shared. “I remember when Lupe and Tyrone got in trouble for stealing cars that one time. It was hilarious.”

“I think Unity is where most of the wifflers developed their tolerance for other cultures. Being around all those different types of people really fosters growth and maturity.”

Being accepted off the field was easy, but being accepted on the field did not come as easily for Morton.

“I felt like I had to prove to people that I belonged, especially after being the last pick as an unknown in 2004. I think I accomplished that my first year by winning rookie of the year and helping my team get to the championship game, which should have been a series but was cut short due to the rain.”

Growing up as a child in rural Kansas surrounded by silos and wheat – because that and hair-piece wearing coaches are all they have in Kansas – young Jimmy Morton spent his summers day-dreaming of finding his yellow brick road leading to a mysterious and extraordinary land. Built as a football player, Morton’s path took him to the defensive line at Ft. Hays St. University and then to Lawrence, Kansas before he settled in at the University of Illinois athletic department as part-time employee and part-time noon ball player.

Pictured left to right starting in the top row: Commissioner Hixson, Chris Shoemaker, Senior Writer Kevin Walsh and SLW Pioneer James Morton.

At the U of I, Morton had the great fortune of meeting the man behind the Shangri La’ Wiffleball curtain, Commissioner James R. Hixson, a gentleman more in the mold of Branch Rickey than Adolph Rupp.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up being the first black wiffler,” Morton explained. “Growing up I just dreamed of making it out of the wheat fields of western Kansas and ending up in a magical and exotic place. Sure enough, I ended up in the corn fields of central Illinois where there is a magical place called Shangri La’.”

Thus began Morton’s transformation from football and basketball phenom to SLW pioneer.

“Getting here was a long and arduous journey that entailed witnessing TStein (former SLW Rookie of the Year Travis Steiner) attempting to play basketball and watching Kevin wear his dress socks with his basketball sneakers. Needless to say it was a challenge to show up every day. And while you would think because I am black I would be a good basketball player I am not. However, Kevin and Travis still welcomed me into the group by inviting me over to the commissioner’s place for a couple of cocktails and some bowling. From there friendships were born and eventually the invite (to Shangri La’) was extended.”

“I was both excited and astonished that I got the invite,” Morton continued. “I couldn’t believe Hixson was willing to take the risk. I also couldn’t wait to put my skills on display to show everyone he made the right decision in giving me the invite. I credit Commissioner Hixson for having a vision of what the future could be.” It didn’t take long for Morton to pay his dues at Lakefront Stadium after being roped into the construction of the state-of-the art backstop with the commissioner and jack-of-all-trades Jim Hixson. “It must have been a million degrees that day,” Morton remembered, “but the time spent was well worth it.”

Although Morton did not wiffle growing up, he was intrigued by westward travelers who spun tales of Lake legends of yore and allowed him to entertain the notion of booting down the barrier.

“I think most people assume I was born with a wiffle bat in my hands based on how good I am, but I didn’t pick up the game until later on in life when I moved to Illinois. Clearly I was meant to play the game and I’m glad that Shangri La’ Wiffleball has allowed me to put my talents on display,” Morton said.

“TA was one of the first wifflers whom we emulated. We heard accounts of him and his prodigious talents all the way back in Kansas. I always hoped I could be as good as him and that is still what keeps me motivated to this day.”

As with most athletes, Morton finds motivation in many things, including music, and while the Maxim 2010 I-Pod of the year spits out ear pleasing tunes for many wifflers, Morton would not mind a little more variation.

“As part of the effort to make me feel like a member of the group, Geoff Hixson will play one rap song a year on the sound system,” Morton mentioned.

Other than the lack of urban music, Morton concedes there is nothing he would change from his journey.

“It has been a blast,” Morton said.

Morton has persevered and endured on his way to becoming the first black wiffler and may one day have his own wing in the SLW Hall of Fame.

NOTE: Commissioner Hixson declined to comment on this story as any discussion on race, sex or vegetables makes him fidgety and uncomfortable.  As a result, the league office and the Commissioner do not endorse this story.

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New Home Plate Banner Design Unveiled, Sound Tent Relocated


In an effort to rededicate the park to the legendary owner and Godfather of Shangri La’ Wiffleball, a new banner (pictured above) that bears the Mayor’s name will be on display under the scoreboard. “This is something that we’ve been wanting to do for years since the wood wall with grandpa’s name came down,” Commissioner Hixson stated. We are excited about this upgrade to the park that is long overdue.”

The banner, produced by the Sign Shop of Colorado Springs, also provides a darker backdrop that will allow fielders to more easily pick up the white ball off the bat Hixson commented, “The Sign Shop has produced all of the banners displayed at Lakefront and we are happy to continue our relationship with Dave Mitschler and company.”

The other change for 2011 is the position shift of the “D.J. Booth” which will be relocating from the left field line to directly behind center field on a raised platform. President Geoff Hixson is spearheading this project in an effort to ensure his bug susceptible feet and legs are out of the grass when he isn’t playing. “This will provide the outfield seating that we have lost since the bus went away years ago,” said the eldest Hixson. “Not only will we have a better vantage point for the non-participants and the camera, but we will be out of the way of foul balls which proved to be a hazard to wifflers when we were off the third base line.”

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SLW Podcast Seven Now Available


Jeff Cain, & Jason Morgan joined Geoff & Jaime Hixson to make predictions for the 2011 tournament and talk about the evolution of Shangri La’ Wiffleball.

As a reminder for the weekend of the Classic, wifflers are asked to bring a pillow, blanket and towel again in 2011. The league office has also been asked to reiterate the participants should only use the outdoor shower and not the indoor shower.

Podcast seven is now on iTunes or you can stream from the website here.

The 2011 Team, umpire and stat crew schedule can be found here.

Questions are needed for the next podcast. Please send whatever you may have to slwiffleball23@gmail.com.

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Podcast Six Features 2011 SLW Team Announcement


After much discussion and debate, Chief Scientist Seph Lietz had the method deemed most equitable for setting the 2011 SLW Classic Field. James Morton, Geoff & Jaime Hixson discuss the rationale and share thoughts on each team in Podcast Six.

Team names are due to the conference office one week from today (June 17). After all names are received, the scheduled will be released. Please designate a member of your team to report the name to the league office.

As a reminder, wifflers are asked to bring a pillow, blanket and towel again in 2011. The league office has also been asked to reiterate the participants should only use the outdoor shower and not the indoor shower.

Podcast six is now on iTunes or you can stream from the website. here.

Questions are needed for the next podcast. Please send whatever you may have to slwiffleball23@gmail.com.

Team 1 (wearing red)
Gentry
Mayfield
Walsh

Team 2 (wearing orange)
Morgan
Pope
Warnes

Team 3 (wearing navy blue)
D. Cain
G. Hixson
Morton

Team 4 (wearing green)
Lietz
Presson
Shoemaker

Team 5 (wearing gray)
Endsley
J. Hixson
Kirby

Team 6 (wearing gold)
J. Cain
Hasler
Sip

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SLW Script Updated


The new image that will be featured on the front of SLW jerseys this season.

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