- Tomorrow marks the most important day of spring; Tapeball opener. What is Tapeball you may ask? Well it's a sport for all ages and skill levels. The article below, written by Luke Anderson, explains the "history" of this great american pastime.In the early 1990s Joel Grams constructed a 3 foot outfield fence in the yard of his Isanti home. The infield was mostl...y dirt and weeds, but this was the venue for the beginning of something much bigger than Joel could possibly imagine.
Joel spent a few summers playing Whiffle Ball(tm) and baseball on that dirt field with his young son Derrick, and perfecting his arsenal of pitches.A few years later, Joel and his family moved out into the country, to a nice home on Xylite Street with a big, beautiful yard.As Derrick grew, so did his love of sports. He and neighbor Reed Thunstrom built a 6-hole golf course in the Grams' yard, as well as a "Wimbledon" mini-grass tennis court in the Thunstrom's yard in the summer of 1997.
In the summer of 1998, Derrick and Reed started goofing around one day with a miniature "Kirby Puckett" wooden bat and orange, plastic, practice golf ball. Not long after, they had wrapped the golf ball in black electrical tape, and established the backyard of the Grams home as the ballpark. The Grams' pole barn sufficed as the fence and its green roof was dubbed "The Green Monster." Home plate was placed about 50 feet away and Derrick and Reed played in the backyard daily throughout the summer.
Getting inspiration from the inginuity of Derrick (13) and Reed (13), Joel, with the help of the boys decided it was time to recreate the field in the front yard of his new home. Only instead of wooden boards as the outfield fence, this time the fence was a knee-high green mesh barrier. And while "The Green Monster" was reduced to a 3 foot fence, the wall was now 80 feet away at the corners and 90 feet away to center field. And that summer, Joel and Derrick constructed the first edition of what some people still refer to today as "The Pasture."
With maple trees behind home plate, and Xylite street and corn fields wrapping around the outfiled, The Pasture was born with a uniqueness all its own, and the first version of the game of tapeball was created. Many changes have been made to equipment, rules, tradition, and the field itself since tapeball's inception, but here are the basic rules, guidelines, and accouterments that shape the game.
The sport of tapeball is a gentleman's game, it is very similar to baseball in its rules and vernacular. The equipment, however is rather different. Balls and bats of different size and material were tested until slowly, through the evolution of time, became perfected instruments for the park's size, and the desired style of play.
Wiffleball(TM) balls and bats arepurchased at SportsAuthority(TM) in Roseville, MN (almost always by Peter Newton or Peter Draper). The balls are wrapped in a specific yellow tape to improve distance and speed with which the balls travel. Balls have a lifespan of only 25-40 hits until they crack and are thus travel in a much poorer fashion. When a ball is cracked too badly to keep in the regular rotation of balls, it is hit deep into the Gila Woods, for the Gila monster to eat.
Bats last much longer, but unlike balls, have no guarantee of being used. If the correct wrapping of a tapeball is hard to do, it would not be an understatement to say correctly taping a bat is a pure art form. Applying the correct ammount of tape in the correct area is very difficult, to the point where once it is done well, that bat will be used almost exclusively by every player in every game until the bat breaks. Some bats seem to improve over time, becoming harder and bonding with the tape, creating an ideal instrument to hit a tapeball. Other bats, such as the "P.N." bat, are never selected in game play and some are even mocked ("Naked Bat"). These bats do not have the same "pop" as the good bats, for whatever the reason, and are ostricized.
Batters are allowed 2 strikes before they are out, and there are no called strikes. A batter must swing and miss or foul a pitch away for a strike to be called. There are no walks. This promotes a high powered offensive game, and pitchers to use trickery and deception in their approach rather than speed. If a pitch is too fast, a batter will simply not swing. An offensive player can be called out by any traditional means (fly out, force out, tag out, strike out) as well as being struck by a thrown ball when they are not on a base.
With these rules, tapeball flourished in the early years. The Grams boys and their relatives pioneered the game along with neighbor Reed Thunstrom, locals Luke and Sam Anderson, and Derrick's school friends Peter Newton and Peter Draper.
In the early 2000s, Joel elevated the playing field to match the quality of the game. Derrick, Reed and Peter Draper were rapidly becoming big time power threats and the little green mesh fence was being rapidly outgrown as the boys moved into highschool. So Joel renovated the Pasture. Home plate and center field were reversed to create a bigger park. Now batters looked out towards towering maple trees in left field and massive oaks past the right field fences, while the corn fields and Xylite Street served as the backdrop.
Joel also improved the outfield wall. What was once a row of rotting, propped-up plywood, or green mesh, is now a five foot tall barrier of chain link fencing.
Joel and Luke Anderson worked tirelessly all afternoon raising the new fence while Derrick's sister Alysha pitched balls to him so he could hit homeruns over it.
There is even an outfield hill in right field ala Minutemaid Park in Houston, and a 20 foot American flag flapping in left-center field. And the signature of the park is the mencing oak tree in right-center field that hangs over the wall, threatening to send sure homeruns back into fair play. The current signs on the outfield fence read 110 in left, 120 in center and 114 in right.
Joel and Derrick made certain the park was state-of-the-art. They erected a backstop, painted foul lines, and cleared brush from the third baseline. Even the fence has been dressed up. It is now garnished with signs from park sponsors such as Firestone, Home Sweet Home Designs, Saturn, and others.
Tapeball is a game now known and loved by many far and wide. It has created great memories, brought friends together, and provided a venue for some of the greatest sporting highlights you will never see. In it's modern era, it has spawned such historic moments as:
- The Nazi pitch
- Newt-Sac Corner
- Sobas running through the fence in '02
- The knuckle-slurve
- Draper winning the '07 HR derby with one hand
- Derrick winning the '08 HR derby with 18 homers in the final round
- "Ankiel" throws from the deep outfield
- "GILA!" calls from the woods
- Joel's 7 home runs in one game while he was litterally on steriods to treat poison ivy
- "Break out the sour cream and chives, it's tater time!" - Joel's home run call.
- A 6-4 pitcher's duel between Luke and Joel on the 4th of July, 2008
- Jeff Grams hitting home runs in his first three at bats of a game, the third of which was left handed
- Jenny Dowie hitting the game winning home run on the 4th of July
- Derrick Grams hitting a 200+ foot home run off the propane tank (the longest shot on record not involving serious wind)
- The "Bomb Bat"
- The "Dirty Dianna" (a sinker pitch)
- Charles hitting a 200+ foot home run into the back yard (serious wind involved)
-Geoffrey Olson taking BP from Joel, swinging and missing on a curveball, letting go of the bat, and watching it fly over the left field fence (115 feet), missing Luke by 5 feet
-Derrick Grams hitting a 250 + home run ball over the top of the Grams' house and the ball landing near the fire pit behind the house.
-Charles Dixon withwhats now known as "THE CATCH" catching the ball in left field and falling over the fence with ball still intact in hand.
-Joe Nyquist pitching 4 straight shut out innings to lead his team to Victory in the 2011 4th of July tapeball classic.
-Derrick Grams hitting hr to tie game with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras
and many more, with more to be created.