In our Chosen Family series, in partnership with Kalo, In The Know spotlights small but strong communities that are united by a shared passion.
Kyle Schultz has been playing wiffle ball ever since he can remember — before iPhones, before tablets and definitely before social media.
“Back then, in the 2000s, everybody was still playing outside,” the 22-year-old founder and commissioner of MLW Wiffle Ball, a wiffle ball league based in Brighton, Michigan, tells In The Know. “Just playing sports, being outside — that was the root for me getting into wiffle ball.”
Kyle’s passion for the outdoor sport started when he was 10 years old, playing in his front yard. His original crew included his two brothers and neighbors, including the sole girl, Rachel.
What began as a fun front-yard game became the foundation for Major League Wiffle Ball, “the most popular professional wiffle ball league in the world,” Schultz says.
The league’s popularity extends beyond its eight teams and multi-state tournament circuit, with a social media base that includes nearly 400,000 combined followers on TikTok and Instagram, as well as 26 million views on YouTube.
The organization got its start all because of a disputed home run derby call, according to Schultz. After setting up more official fencing (to better judge what made a home run), Schultz and the gang made things official in the summer of 2010, filming games and posting them to YouTube.
“This field is my childhood,” Schultz tells In The Know. “I spent so many hours here, just as a kid. So many games, a lot of memories, a lot of friendships that were built here.”
The sport, which features a lightweight plastic ball, is similar to baseball in that there are the familiar bases and rules for strikes and balls. The main difference for MLW is that there are five players per team and only three players per team on the field at any given time.
Growing the league
While there were no initial plans to build a larger community and business, that’s exactly what happened. The MLW organization has since expanded to eight teams, 50 players, with tournaments hosted in Michigan, New York, Ohio, Massachusetts and Illinois.
And they’re still looking to grow. Schultz’s goal? To be the ultimate governing body for wiffle ball in the US. That would mean regional tournaments building up to a national tournament, alongside media deals and bigger venues.
For the players, though, MLW is about community.
“I just think this whole wiffle ball league is so welcoming,” one team player says.
What started off as kids playing outside has become so much bigger than its original league of five. And it’s not only the players who are grateful for the opportunity. Parents provide huge support as well.
“You’d be surprised by how many parent emails I get, saying, ‘Thank you guys so much for what you’re doing. You guys are getting my kid outside, and he’s getting active, and he’s having a lot of fun,'” Schultz says.
“I just still have a lot of fun doing it,” he adds, even after a decade.
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