If you build it, he will come

Finally, Lincoln has a third Wiffle ball park. I know I’m not alone in Vermont when I say, “It’s about time.”
The new facility, Twin Oaks Park, is smack in the center of the village and is in some ways reminiscent of Citi Field, the future home of the New York Mets, which is now under construction in Queens, N.Y. Both parks use grass, instead of artificial turf, and both are located in the Western Hemisphere.
There, however, the similarities end. Citi Field will cost about $610 million, which is about $610 million higher than the price tag for Twin Oaks. Citi Field also has 646 toilets, and Twin Oaks has none — though I presume in an emergency a man could use one of the oaks that give the park its name.
Everything at Twin Oaks is understated compared with Citi Field. Whereas the future home of the Mets will boast restaurants with a seating capacity of almost 3,400 people, when I was at Twin Oaks on opening night last month, the fare included a bag of Sun Chips and a small tub of dip. But those chips were mighty good.
Twin Oaks is the brainchild of Wiffle ball park designer Matt Brown, 20. He cut the grass in the field behind his house, and found some garden posts and 3-foot high garden fencing in his parents’ barn. Then he sprinkled some white lime onto the field, replicating precisely the dimensions recommended by Wiffle Ball, Inc., and the dream became a reality.
As Kinsella wrote and Costner learned, “If you build it, he will come.”
Brown’s field of dreams, however, is actually the third Wiffle ball park in Lincoln. The others? Mike Moriarty’s Friendly Confines at DR Field on Quaker Street, and Tommy Thompson’s Gap Bridge Field a mile east of the center of town.
Some people might ask if a town the size of Lincoln can support three Wiffle ball parks, but I was far from alone on opening night at Twin Oaks — at least if by “far from alone,” you mean “one of two spectators present.” Watching with me that night was Jim Brown, Matt’s father, and Jim is very good company and so it was sort of like “far from alone.” Also, the players talk to the spectators between innings, which Major League players only do if you are from ESPN or you’re a federal agent with a subpoena investigating steroid use. That, too, made the stands feel good and crowded.
Just for the record, “stands” isn’t exactly the right word, either. Perhaps “a single, collapsible lawn chair that Jim got to before I did,” would be more precise.
But the four-on-four Wiffle ball game was as exciting and dramatic as any Wiffle ball game I have seen in years. Thirty-seven-year-old middle school science teacher Chris Oxley lumbered like Manny Ramirez into the furthest reach of an outfield corner and made a desperate bare-handed leap — imagine a gazelle weighed down by a Mini Cooper — just as a Matt Brown wallop was about to fall over the fence for a home run. Local youth pastor Todd Goodyear, who is the most competitive human being on the planet when it comes to team sports or eating, scooped a sizzling grounder off the grass and pegged it home with the grace of, well, the world’s most competitive youth pastor. And Moriarty didn’t seem to mind pitching away from the familiar confines of his own park: His fastball sizzled into the piece of ratty aluminum Brown mounted on a stick and placed behind home plate to serve as a strike zone.
Citibank is paying roughly $20 million a year for the naming rights to the new stadium in Queens. My sense is Brown wouldn’t get quite that much if he ever tried to sell naming rights to Twin Oaks. But the value of a good game of Wiffle ball on a summer night in Vermont? Priceless.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on June 10.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “If you build it, he will come

Comments are closed.