Janesville man builds backyard Wiffle ball field for family, friends

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Shelly Birkelo
August 19, 2015

JANESVILLE—The rain had barely stopped Tuesday morning when Alec Campbell's three friends showed up at 7:30 a.m. to play a game of Wiffle ball in his family's backyard on Westminster Road.

Two hours later, the boys were still playing in teams of two while Alec's 9-year-old sister, Lily, umpired from first base.

“Safe!” dad Chris Campbell yelled from near home plate after Alec dropped the ball.

Batter Zack Bothun had taken advantage of the error. He had rounded second base and then third before crossing home plate and scoring a run off Gavin Kilen's pitch.

Chris built the Wiffle ball field five years ago and has added something new every year since. It's been an investment of “a little over $1,200," he said.

First came the artificial turf home plate to prevent mud. Then he got the foul pole and net.

Later came the 72-foot distance marker in left field and 80-foot marker in center field.

“I used my golf laser link to get the exact distance,” Chris said.

He also installed lights, a Lamar sign with the slogan "Campbell Yards" and outdoor speakers mounted to the house so music can be played for those on the field.

Another foul pole was added this year.

“I like to have my kids, their friends and the neighborhood kids here,” Chris said while watching a game from his deck.

Neighbors on both sides of the Campbells have created their own backyard sports fields—one for ice hockey and the other for football. So they don't mind the Wiffle ball field, he said.

Chris grew up by Roosevelt Elementary School, where he, his brother, Pat, and other neighborhood kids would play games of strikeout.

“I love baseball and being around it,” said the Craig High School junior varsity baseball coach.

Alec, 12, and Bothun, Kilen and Jack Campion, all 11, are teammates who play baseball for the Milton Mad Dogs, an independent traveling team.

“A lot of the fundamentals of baseball are learned in backyards,” Chris said.

The boys agreed.

“It teaches teamwork, getting out and running fast around the bases,” Jack said.

“You kind of get to bond with teammates and get to know them better,” Gavin said.

Zack admitted playing Wiffle ball is fun and cool, but it kind of messes up his baseball swing “'cause I'm always trying to hit home runs.”

Alec, who plays on the field about four times a week, organizes and hosts a big Wiffle ball tournament every year.

This year, 15 people came over, he said.

The Campbells are among a growing number of local families who have Wiffle ball fields in their backyards.

Both Jack's and Gavin's families have them, but they still enjoy playing at the Campbells' field.

“Ours is bigger but not as official as Alec's,” Gavin said.

In a couple of weeks, Chris will take down the Wiffle ball net and pick up the bases to create a soccer field for Lily and others to practice and play on.

He's also already thinking about how to improve the Wiffle ball field for next year.

“I'd like to remove that lilac bush,” Chris said, pointing across the backyard, “and put up a big scoreboard.”

Imagine that.

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