X-Blades win Fifth Annual Mongy Memorial Wiffleball Tournament

Normally when most people hear of wiffleball being played, they probably think of a group of young kids getting together in the backyard of one of their parents’ homes or a local park.

What most people probably do not envision is a group of adults getting together for a cookout, some adult beverages and a good time with their friends.

Well, this past Sunday at Tom Tarnowski’s house on South Roberts Road, in the Town of Dunkirk, the latter is exactly what was happening, as his sons Dan and Mike, along with a large group of their friends, came together for the Fifth Annual Mongy Memorial Wiffleball Tournament.

“These kids started playing here and they had leagues when they were in grade school and when they went to middle school and high school,” Tom Tarnowski said. “But after high school, nobody could play in the league anymore, because everybody was off at college, so they decided to have a one-day tournament. And a lot of the college ball players come back for this.”

The tournament, which was complete with an official rule book, different colored team shirts and an official scorer, included eight teams and more than 32 players. As well as a some fans that included other members of the Tarnowski family and friends of the players.

“We only had (the league) for a couple of years, because it got too hard with people doing different stuff all summer,” Curtin said. “So back in 2010, we said let’s try a tournament. It was a one-day tournament on a Saturday, I think it was. We had eight teams and I think it went pretty well.”

The field, which was installed between the home of Alphonse “Mongy” Tarnowski and his wife Irene, and the home of the family of his son, Tom Tarnowski, was Tom’s brainchild.

“Because we live in the town, I decided to put something here to bring the kids here,” he said, noting the field was built 21 years ago when his youngest son, Mike, was just two years old. “Rather than take them to the city to play, everybody came here and played and it’s just grown from there.”

And once he built it, the kids sure did come.

“We’ve been playing since we were kids like back in middle school and even before then,” Curtin said. “We were little and we couldn’t hit the ball far, so we played with a tennis racket. And then we got older and we used to actually have a league with scheduled games and probably like four or five, or maybe six teams.”

One of the more redeeming qualities of the field, besides it’s wooden strike zone, is its home run fence, which has gone through some changes over the years.

“They tried with a (snow) fence, but too many kids kept getting hurt on it,” Tom Tarnowski said. “So I think (the grass fence) is at least four or five years old. At first, it was too close, so we brought it back, because too many kids were hitting home runs. But now it’s the right distance.”

What was once a small league amongst friends, has evolved into something that all involved look forward to every summer. And it’s also something they hope that they will be able to continue to do into the future.

“It’s evolved from just being a little thing screwing around,” Curtin said. “Now it’s pretty competitive, but we’re still out there having a good time. As you get older, it’s harder to get everybody together, because everybody is doing different things.

“I think as long as we can get the guys, we’re definitely going to play,” Curtin continued. “If we have an open weekend, it will happen.”

The rules for the original league were written up and kept by Dan Tarnowski. They are, for the most part, the same rules used for the tournament.

“I must have made those in 2007,” Dan Tarnowski said. “Because synonymous with our past play, was arguments. So we kind of had to get something nailed out. And I actually just found it on my hard drive and 2007 was the last time it was modified. So I updated them with just some new rules for this year. This is the first year we’ve actually had a hard copy around.”

Aside from an official rule book, Curtin has been keeping complete statistics for each of the tournament’s five years.

“They definitely take me some time to do,” Curtin said. “But now it’s a little easier, because I can punch them into a computer.”

Through the first four years of the Mongy Memorial, Mike Tarnowski had a tournament-best .560 average while Adam Kubasik and Robert Nalepa were tied for the lead with 11 home runs. Nalepa led in RBI with 35 while Matt Murphy had scored a tournament-leading 36 runs. Unfortunately for Curtin, he led the tournament with 23 strikeouts in 10 games.

“Everybody that was here playing pretty much used to play back in the day,” Curtin said. “So it’s cool, that now we’re all in our mid-20’s, that everybody still gets all excited to play.”

The first two tournaments were won by the X-Blades, which consisted of Kubasik, Joe Polichetti, Mike Privitera and Bryant Watts while the Quick Stix won it all in 2012 and 2013. Nalepa, along with Polichetti, Nick Siracuse and Mike Tarnowski made up the Quick Stix in 2012 while Nalepa, Colton Farnham, Polichetti and Mike Tarnowski were on the squad for last year’s title run.

“There’s been two teams that have yet to be dethroned,” ?Dan Tarnowski said. “They’ve been going back and forth. But this was probably our most competitive tournament yet.

“In the end, it’s all about the competition,” he continued. “It’s not just some big party. It’s fun, but it’s primarily about the competition.”

The tournament was won again this year by the X-Blades, as Kubasik, Watts, Nick Ahlstrom, Vinny Bomasuto and Brian Crawford brought home the team’s third title in five years. Polichetti, who came back home from Tennessee just for the tournament, was named the Most Valuable Player after he hit .439 (18 for 41), scored 12 runs, drove in 20 more and smacked seven home runs and five doubles. He joined Alex Shaw (2010), Dan Nickle (2011), Ryan Hall (2012) and Mike Tarnowski (2013) as a recipient of the award.

“They talk about this all year,” Tom Tarnowski said. “And it’s something special for them.”