MLW Plays Mini MLB Series at Little Fenway Aug 6. Video Release September 23!

MLW Plays Mini MLB Series at Little Fenway Aug 6. Video Release September 23!

Some may think it’s impossible to be at Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and Iowa’s Field of Dreams all at once. If so, they’ve never been to Essex, Vermont. 

Nestled between rolling hills and dirt roads, miniature replicas of these three iconic MLB venues stand. Little Fenway, Little Wrigley and Little Field of Dreams are built for backyard WIFFLE Ball.

For the past decade, the non-profit organization SLAMT1D has hosted its annual Vermont Summer Classic at the Little Fenway complex. The three-day tournament raises awareness and funds to support those with Type 1 diabetes (T1D).

“Type 1 diabetes is a lethal life-altering autoimmune disease,” Jeff Kolok, SLAMT1D CEO, said. “It’s a tough disease, and it’s often misunderstood… their body is constantly under siege by the disease.” 

Amidst a weekend of home runs and diving plays, the classic is a space where people with Type 1 diabetes connect with each other. 

“(People with Type 1 diabetes) get to walk around and see that everyone is there for them,” Kolok said. “One mother described it as one giant hug.”

Though not fielding a team in the 11th Annual Vermont Summer Classic this year, more than 50 Major League Wiffle Ball players act as one big team supporting SLAMT1D. MLW encourages fans to donate and register to compete in the tournament from August 12-14. The deadline to sign up as one of the final three teams in the 24-team field was July 1. 

Regulation games are seven innings long with umpires. Nine players occupy the field and it’s played exactly like baseball. The speed limit is roughly 45 mph, so while Kolok said there aren’t seven-foot curves as seen in MLW, pitchers in the classic still find ways to throw funky breaking pitches. 

“It’s competitive, but it’s not spikes up sliding into second base competitive,” Kolok said.  

Teams will duke it out in a home run derby if there’s a tie after eight innings. The team with the highest fundraising amount will receive an extra pitch. If it’s still tied, the winner will be decided by a timed two-person wheelbarrow race around the bases. 

“It’s epic,” Kolok said. “We’ve had it determine a semifinal game.” 

Teams play three guaranteed games: one Friday evening and two Saturday. Players from each team will also compete in Saturday’s home run derby. The top three finishers will be awarded bonus points that factor into seeding for Championship Sunday. Roughly sixteen teams return for a single-elimination playoff, with the championship game occurring around 4 p.m. August 14. 

Food trucks will serve barbeque, hot dogs, and maple creemees (similar to soft-serve ice cream). Play-by-play announcers will occupy each field and broadcast to the crowd. In-game music will also air between teams taking the field.

Kolok said SLAMT1D’s annual summer classic was inspired by attending the Travis Roy Foundation Wiffle Ball Tournament at Little Fenway in 2010. The tournament was held for the 20th and final time in 2021, raising $1,192,238 for quadriplegic research and aid in honor of the tournament’s namesake, Travis Roy.

Eleven seconds into his first collegiate hockey game, Roy crashed into the sideboard, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down for the remainder of his life. Roy passed away in 2020 and requested his foundation host one final tournament at Little Fenway. With the TRF tournament officially retired, SLAMT1D continues its mission to empower those affected by Type 1 diabetes at the Little Fenway complex while also honoring the Travis Roy Foundation. 

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with the Roys and the Travis Roy Foundation,” Kolok said. “I’ve shared with everyone that the way we view this is we’re simply being handed a torch and carrying it forward.” 

One week before approximately 1,500 people show up to the summer classic, MLW will play a Mini MLB Series Supporting SLAMT1D at the complex August 6. The Downtown Diamondbacks and Coastal Cobras will play one game on each field in the private event, starting with Little Field of Dreams. The series finale will be held under the lights at the first-built Little Fenway field. 

“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now,” MLW founder Kyle Schultz said. “I thought Jimmy (Knorp) and the Diamondbacks would thrive in that environment as well as Drew (Davis) and the Cobras. Both teams are traveling for the first time with us ever in a series. And we’re doing it for a good cause.”