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On August 11, 2007, Team L.O.F.T. took the field for the first time.

Dressed in heather gray t-shirts with maroon ringer collars and “Team L.O.F.T.” spelled out across the chest in a font named “Squealer” in an attempt to mimic AC/DC’s logo, Eddie Bauer,  ShamWow, Focker, and I pulled into Central Park for Wifflin’ For Wishes III at 9:00am. We started walking from our cars toward the field, but made it no further than 20 feet when we were accosted by a beastly, hairy man we did not know. He was running at us with a Bubba Keg and screaming while waving a flag.

“TAKE A PULL OF THIS!!!”

He lifted the Bubba Keg to my mouth and pulled the spigot to pour some kind of boozy concoction down my throat. 

“WHALERS!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

Then he turned and ran away.

I learned later that this person was known as Kmart to his friends, and he set a tone that we tried to follow for the next 12 years.

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In 2007, all five of us worked together at AT&T. I had become good friends with ShamWow from working side by side with him for about 3 years. I assisted with training Focker’s class when he was a new hire, and we bonded over our love of hockey. MacGruber and I were the same age and both hailed from St. Paul, so we would bicker about which of our high schools was better (Go Governors!) and tried to recall if we ever faced each other on the diamond. I didn’t know Eddie Bauer from Adam. I just knew him as some goofball I would pass in the hall or see in the lunchroom, but Focker had gotten to know him fairly well in their time working together, and learned he was a baseball fan.

I started there before all of them in 2003. One of our trainers was a guy a named Ted Spilseth. Having worked in offices for a while, I was struck by how young Ted seemed for a trainer. He wasn’t a child, but I would guess he was in his mid-20’s and seemed to be an athletic kind of guy. He dressed well and used a lot of “product” in his hair. I, uh, did not. I really thought he was kind of a nerd, because, well, everybody who is different from me is, but he was a great trainer and a nice guy.

Ted trained me as a new hire, and many times in other functions for the next couple of years that followed as well. One of those classes was in 2005. This was still 2 years before the first iPhone launched, and while some would carry around PDA’s, most who worked in office environments maintained their schedules in paper planners, and Ted was no exception.  He had a Franklin-Covey planner that he kept in a 3-ring leather book, and he frequently left it on his podium at the front of the training room. One Thursday after entering the training room following lunch, I noticed Ted’s planner was sitting open on the podium, so I stopped to see what hellish system or policy we would be learning next, but instead I saw something that made me laugh. At 6:00 that day, Ted had written “Wiffleball”. This confirmed my previous theory… Ted was a nerd.

But it got me to thinking… Was Ted seriously playing wiffleball or was he just goofing around with his nieces and nephews, or what? Could it be that grown-ass adults actually play wiffleball? It prompted me to investigate. I Googled (or more accurately, I probably Yahoo’d in 2005) “Minnesota wiffleball”, and found a link to something called HRLTwinCities.com. The site was primarily blue and red. It had standings on the front page, links to stats, news, scores, and something called “A Side of Cheese”. I clicked around the site and landed on the team page for the Brewers where I found a picture of Ted “Costa” Spilseth and all of his stats. It was hard to comprehend… All of this for wiffleball? These guys – especially Ted - need to get a life.

But the more I clicked, the more I knew I had to be a part of it. I would frequently read the message board, and in doing so, learned that whatever this league was was far different than what I knew. I was playing softball for a team sponsored by White Castle at the time, and I hated everybody we played against (and many I played with). The screamers, the yellers, the meatheads, everybody who thought they were playing to impress MLB scouts. In HRL, everybody seemed to know each other regardless of what team they played for, and enjoyed cracking jokes, and drinking copious amounts of beer. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE!

I read the message board for two years. I didn’t post at all (those of you who see me on the message board these days may find that difficult to believe, but it’s true). I read every post. I matched up the names to the players and the players to the highlight videos. I knew everybody, but they didn’t know me. Real creeper shit, I’ll admit, but I was all in on HRL, even though nobody knew who the hell I was.

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I started assembling my crew and sold them on W4W. This was our ticket into HRL as far as I was concerned. I went to Focker first. He was kind of wishy-washy initially, but he could see that I was dead-set on playing, so he reluctantly agreed. But we needed more bodies. ShamWow liked skateboards, so he must have some athlete in him, right? I got him locked in. I showed MacGruber the W4W website, and he jumped right in. Team rosters were 3-5 people, and while we now had 4, I really feared that we would end up with a flake or two that would back out at the last minute (sure enough, MacGruber was unable to make it), so I felt we needed one more, just to be safe. My softball buddies laughed at me when I asked them, my brothers did too. I wasn’t sure where else to go with it, but Focker suggested he could check with Mike O’Dell.

“Who the hell is that?” I asked.

“He’s that shorter guy with the spiky hair that sits on the other side of the floor from you. Works at 93X.”

“Who?”

“He’s got the gauged ears.”

That idiot?! There’s no way that guy knows the first thing about playing ball.”

“We need another guy, Nate.”

“Fine. Ask him.”

Eddie Bauer was in.

Once everybody was in place, we had to figure the game out and get to know each other. Not really knowing what to expect when we actually got to W4W, I feared that if we got trounced, Team L.O.F.T. would fall apart, that nobody would want to come back next year to just get beat all over again, and we would lose are chance at charming the pants off of Truck and getting into HRL, so we did what would later become unthinkable for our crew… We practiced.

I read the rules, learned the dimensions of the strike zone, and built one out of PVC, red spray paint, zip ties, and some cheap ass netting I purchased on eBay. I bought a new bat and a few sleeves of balls from the Toys R Us in Bloomington (RIP), and took everything to Northcrest Park across the street from the office. I had a cheap home plate and we stuck some utility flags in the ground to measure out the hit distances. Our early hacks and pitches were… well… not great, but we learned how to make the ball move, and where we needed to square it up on the bat.

We proceeded to go 4-0 in the round robin portion of W4W that year, and then lost our first elimination game, but it didn’t matter. We had done enough to be relatively successful, and everybody on Team L.O.F.T. had caught the wiffle bug. We were all in.

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The next year at W4W4, I managed to get in Truck’s ear when we checked in. I told him we wanted to be a part of that sweet, sweet, HRL experience.  As he always is, Truck was cordial and straight forward. He told me that he would keep us in mind if and when expansion ever happened again in the league. As luck would have it, that happened sooner than later. In November of 2008, Truck reached out to inform me that the league would be expanding from 18 to 20 teams, and we had first dibs on one of the spots. All of the online stalking had finally paid off… WE WERE IN!!!

First things first… The Team L.O.F.T. name obviously couldn’t stay. We needed a name that hadn’t been used in HRL before, because we wanted to establish our own identity. I went back to the website I knew so well and did the research. There were 4 active MLB team names that hadn’t been used in the league yet:

Nationals, Rays, Astros, or Blue Jays.

We mulled over the Nationals for minute. We thought we could have assembled some pretty solid uniforms using the stars & bars. Then we chewed on the Astros and thought we might have been able to come up with a goofy wifflish “Great Gazoo” looking logo. But in the end, we settled on what we knew we could make the most adolescent jokes out of: the BJ’s. Imagine the possibilities!

We took the classic Toronto Blue Jays’ logo, swapped out the maple leaf for a shamrock since we learned that we all had some level of Irish heritage, then we did the same thing on the newest Toronto logo at that time, and printed up two “jerseys” with them. A gray t-shirt with no numbers or names on the back, and a ¾ sleeve black and white shirt with royal blue numbers. We were just about ready to roll, but as has become habit for me, I was again concerned about our roster size. I wasn’t sure 5 guys would be enough to get us through a long season, so I turned to another AT&T employee, Shandy. He said wiffleball sounded like a great time, so he would join us. We were now official.

We took an HRL field for the first time at Harley Park on April 23, 2009 (the infamous “Braves Turned the Fields Around Night”). We faced the other expansion team that year, the Dodgers, on an extremely windy night. It was howling in from right field, and would occasionally shift to come straight in from center. Both teams frequently had to step out of the batters boxes to wipe blowing dirt from their eyes. We ended up losing 2 one run games that night, but there were signs of life. Eddie Bauer hit the franchise’s first homerun in game one, and I struck out 15 in game 2.

The next few weeks proved difficult as we rattled off 9 consecutive losses to start the season, but on May 21, the Red Sox had finally seen enough of our misery and threw us a bone by starting Dr. Jesus, which helped to enable Shandy to pitch us to our first win in franchise history, 7-5.

Dr. Jesus took the L that night, but as a sweet consolation prize, he was inducted into the HRL Blue Jays Hall of Fame in 2012 because he was the first pitcher that we beat (he received a t-shirt that says “I was inducted into the Blue Jays Hall of Fame and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”… It was two sizes too small).  He remains the only honoree to grace the halls of that prestigious institution to this day.

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2018 is the Blue Jays’ 10th season in HRL. It will also be our last.

Life happens, and it has most definitely happened to the BJ’s. We have kids, we have wives, we have jobs, and all of it adds up to just not having the time to keep this going as a group. It’s been a struggle getting a team to the rink every week this season, and there are no signs of that slowing down, in fact, just the opposite. It happens to the best of HRL teams, and frankly, we are the best of HRL teams.

Over the years, we have given away ShamWow towels to commemorate record-breaking deficiency, we have had two players voted into the Fun-Star game in every year of our existence, we have won Wifflepalooza twice (and subsequently lost in the first round of the playoffs twice), we have created the greatest wiffle playlist in history, we are 4 time Canada Cup champions, we are beer swillin’, plastic smackin’ and world famous…

But most importantly, we are 18 guys who have come and gone from the BJ’s roster that all played with the same goal: have a great fucking time. We did that. We hope you did too.

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So what’s next?

Welp. We’re not sure. We know we can’t make it work with this many part-timers on one team again, but nobody on our current roster seems to want to end their individual careers for good just yet. Most will become free agents, some may take a year or two off, some may try to stick together and maybe build something new, and it’s possible some may just determine that it can’t work anymore and hang them up for good. It’ll be a busy off season, so keep an eye out for your favorite BJ on the free agent wire… You know how to reach us!

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To wrap this up, I just want to thank every team we’ve faced in this league. We’ve collected memories and stories from getting to meet you, and sharing the rink with you. We’ve amassed a lot of losses to most of you over the years, but I really can’t remember any specifics about any of them. What I remember are the beers, the laughs, the pranks, the one trip I was forced to make to Granite City with the Marlins for flatbread pizzas (never again), slow clapping the Bunny’s taco bar, the line drives that got fumbled over the wall for HR’s, the falls rounding 3B, and the bat tosses. Those are the specifics that I remember from my time with the BJ’s, and those matter so much more than any wins or losses.

Thank you to Truck, who gave me and Team L.O.F.T. a chance put our stain on the league for 10 years. We hope we left it better than we found it.

Most of all, I want to thank the guys who have been there with me for this from the start, MacGruber and Eddie Bauer. 15 others have come and gone from the BJ’s, but you 2 guys battled through and made it 10 great years that, surprisingly, have meant the world to me. It’s just a stupid fuckin’ kids’ game, but it feels like we really truly accomplished things together through it. We were tough, fun, and creative, and together, we made impacts on the league that nobody else could.

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The Blue Jays’ last ever regular season series will be September 6 at Valley in a 3 game set against the Mets, and we’re going out by throwing ourselves a GTFOH Bash in typical BJ’s style… With a lot of booze, a lot of loud music (sorry Shirls, the BJ’s SoundBoX will be out in full force!), and a lot of laughs. Invites have gone out to all former BJ’s, and in typical BJ’s style, none of them have responded, so they probably won’t be there, but don’t let that deter you. If you’re not playing that night (or even if you are), come out and celebrate with us before we go on to win Wifflepalooza and the playoffs. Bring your Bubba Kegs!

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The Blue Jays:

Al

BamBam

Bomb Pop

Boomhauer

Creeping Seth

Eddie Bauer

Fiddles

Focker

Fukudome

MacGruber

Scott

ShamWow

Shandy

Thor

Thunderson

Truck

Tugboat

Vlade

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Comments

Not Eddie Bauer
# Not Eddie Bauer
Friday, August 17, 2018 8:23 AM
5/5: Would read again.
Gusto
# Gusto
Sunday, August 26, 2018 6:06 PM
Funny, no one gave a shit when I retired. And no one posted my farewell letter on the website either.
Alex Valen
# Alex Valen
Monday, August 27, 2018 3:16 PM
I'll take over the BJ's.

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