Fifty-five ballplayers tromped over Catherine and Joe Kelly’s backyard all afternoon Saturday, and the Kellys were perfectly delighted.
Their backyard was the site of the fifth annual Dundee Classic Wiffle ball tournament.
Don’t let the term “Wiffle ball” deceive anyone. The guys aren’t joking around.
Organized largely by the Kellys’ oldest sons, 24-year-old Rory and 20-year-old Henry, the tourney starts with the national anthem, sung with a microphone by 22-year-old Kelly sister Rosemary. “I only get one performance a year,” said the recent graduate of Notre Dame University. “I actually practiced for it.”
Another sister, 23-year-old Sheila, shoots photos and video and wears a badge on a string around her neck identifying her as a member of the press. Their mother throws out the first pitch.
They keep statistics. They present a trophy. They select a most valuable player. They have photos and names of record holders for batting average, runs batted in, hits, doubles and other categories, taped to a wall indoors.
“It’s competitive and it’s fun,” said Henry Kelly, who is home for a while from the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.
“It doesn’t get more serious than the Dundee Classic,” said competitor Patrick Mulhall, 18. He was joking. Sort of.
Henry made a pre-tournament video, complete with baritone voiceover and sentimental shots of Omaha.
Most games last five innings. A drainpipe on the side of the Kellys’ white house marks the right-field line and a 20-foot-high yellow pole denotes the third-base line. A batter is out if the Wiffle ball, which is simply a light plastic baseball, is caught after smacking a wall, rolling down the slanted roof or rattling around in the trees.
Rory Kelly, a Marine lieutenant who will soon be headed for Camp Pendleton in California, said this was the first time the four Kelly brothers — Rory, Henry, 17-year-old Kieran and 14-year-old Brian — were able to play together as a team.
Joe Kelly said it’s all about the young guys.
“My wife and I just run the concessions,” the father said. “That’s all we do.”
As for the grass that gradually gets stomped into dust as the day progresses, the father said: “We don’t care.”