Did you know that the New York Yankees were originally called the New York Highlanders? If you’re a baseball fan, odds are pretty good that you did, in fact, know that. If you’re a sports fan, you know that teams change names frequently: The Washington Bullets became the Wizards, the New York Titans became the Jets, the Houston Colt .45’s became the Astros, The Anaheim Mighty Ducks became the Ducks (kudos to the marketing guru who collected a fat check for that one)… The point is that names change, but glorious histories remain, as is the case for the 2015 HRL squad heading to the NWLA Tournament.

“Touched By An Uncle” was a name that had no specific origins. It was just a name that we filled out on an application. It had served its purpose for two years, but in 2015, it’s a whole new ballgame. HRL will arrive at the NWLA Tournament with a new manager, new players, and a new badass attitude. No more will HRL be the “fun old guys” in Columbus. It’s time to be taken seriously. It’s time for a name that reflects that.

Minnesota is a state with a lot of pride. We take pride in the fact that we survive sub-zero winters year after year. We take pride in the fact that we perfected a hamburger stuffed with cheese. We take pride in the fact that two of our biggest celebrity exports are a giant wrestling governor, and a tiny purple musician. What makes us the most proud, however, is the fact that we are the only state west of New York to have three leagues in the NWLA Tournament.

Our fellow Minnesota Leagues – Minnesota Wiffleball Association, and Shed Field Wiffleball League – have both chosen team names that reflect symbols of Minnesota – the Gophers, and the Loons. It is with that same level of state pride that HRL is proud to announce their team name for the 2015 NWLA Tournament…

Now, you may ask yourself, “Sakes alive, that is a fantastic name, but what does ‘Lady Slippers’ have to do with Minnesota?”.  That is a terrible question, but we’ll address it anyway… Cypripedium Reginae (more commonly known as the Pink and White Lady’s Slipper) is the state flower of Minnesota, and boy oh boy, is she a beaut. From the correct viewing angle, it may look like anything from a wad of chewed up bubble gum to a freshly shorn nutsack. It’s majestic, and sure to instill fear in all who cross her. A perfect team name.

But this tournament is not about nicknames, it’s about saying horrible things about your opponents, complaining about everybody else’s walk-up music, and to a lesser degree, becoming national champions. With that in mind, HRL has assembled a squad of rookies and veterans they believe can excel at all of those aspects and more. Let’s meet them…

Nate “Vlade” Hill (Manager) – Being the old, over-the-hill, crusty bastard that he is, Vlade moves from the NWLA playing field where he finished with a career .429 average (HRL’s career leader, and 7th overall), to the HRL dugout replacing Truck as the team’s manager. Although they have been teammates on the Blue Jays in HRL, Truck and Vlade’s managerial styles couldn’t be any more different… Truck drinks light beer, and Vlade does not. Can this vast difference in personalities be the catalyst that finally gets HRL to the top of the mountain? Yeah, probably.

Wade “Web Gem” Cooper – Web Gem arrives to the Lady Slippers as the reigning Eagan MVP and Yellow Slammer award winner and was a two time HRL champion with the former Gothams. He finished 2014 with a .426 average along with a 33 HR’s and 61 RBI. On the mound, he has become one of HRL’s elite pitchers, posting a .762 and .720 WHIP the last two seasons, and true to his name, he finished 2nd in the voting for HRL’s “Sticky Paw” award in both 2013 and 2014.

Zach “Dr. Seuss” Eustis – Seuss has won 4 of the last 5 Cy Wiffler Awards in HRL and is known as one of the elite pitchers in the country. He returns to the NWLA tournament for the 2nd time after going 1-1 on the mound last year with a heartbreaking (yet legendary) loss to the eventual champion, WSEM. That loss has had the mild mannered Doctor seething for a full year, and he is chomping at the bit to return.

Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne – Smallpox returns for his 2nd appearance in the NWLA tournament after putting on a strong showing in 2014, posting a .528 OBP, leading the team in runs scored, and striking out 34 of the 36 outs he recorded on the mound while allowing a .027 batting average against. He continues to be the best hitter in HRL and is the reigning Hopkins MVP and Yellow Slammer award winner. He also recently graduated from college, so his baseball focus has now turned to wiffleball, so, ya know…

Erik “H8R” Ganeles – The new HRL commissioner (that still looks like a typo, but is not) is back for his 3rd year of NWLA play. He has shown a keen OCWA-like eye at the dish which has translated into being HRL’s top run scorer in the tournament. He is a two time HRL champion with the Gothams,  and consistently garners heavy voting interest in the “Sultan Of Suck” award despite his consistently high power numbers (so the rest of HRL agrees with you, NWLA).

Travis “Two Bat” Heyda – Two Bat is a 3 year NWLA veteran, and leads the HRL with 7 career HR’s in Ohio. In 2014, he led the tournament with a .583 average, .958 SLG% and 1.579 OPS. He is a perennial HRL All-Star, and a two time Yellow Slammer award winner… This guy is completely offensive. Be warned, he may delay an at-bat to “Stone Cold” a beer or two.

Chris “Hardball” Matthews – This bearded wonder will make his NWLA playing debut in 2015, although he was on the HRL staff last year as a bench coach (more “bench” than “coach”). He quietly took HRL by storm in 2013 when, in his rookie campaign, he arrived as an unknown an obliterated the strikeouts in a season with 257 – 54 better than the previous mark. He has a career ERA of 0.91, a BAA of .125, and WHIP of .690… His ERA and WHIP currently eclipse Seuss – the long-time gold standard for pitching in HRL.

“Handsome” Mat Peisert – By the time the NWLA regionals start, Handsome Mat will have moved from the Twin Cities to Chicago, but his dedication to HRL knows no bounds as he will return to Eagan for the regional tournament and to Ohio for the nationals. Mat is rock solid with the bat, possessing both a keen eye, and the 3rd highest batting average in a season when he hit .474 in 2013. On the mound, Mat is a crafty junkballer with a plethora of pitches that make him difficult to get a bat on.

Robbie “Beardface” Raymond - The lumberjack is back! This two time NWLA veteran and fan favorite is back with the HRL squad in 2015, and along with him will be his proficient left handed bat. Beardface is an annual HRL All-Star, the 2012 Eagan Cy Wiffler, 2012 Eagan MVP and the 2012 NWLA Central Player of the Year. He is in the top 20 for batting average in NWLA history, and usurped Vlade’s “Best Beard in HRL” title in 2012. 

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