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  • Writer's pictureWritten by Joshua Smith

#WiffleCrushWednesday: Anthony Stidham

Welcome to 2018, bitches! 2017 was a tough year for us all, but also for me on a personal level. Somehow I still have love in my heart and want to share my thoughts on a man that many of you may think you know, but actually don't - Anthony Stidham. Sure you all have seen him around, toting the equipment, hitting the occasional dinger, or talking smack on the field...but he's much more than that. Allow me to elaborate.

I remember when I first met Anthony. We were halfway through the 2015 season and things were going okay but we had this one franchise that just couldn't stand on it's own feet (Plain White Tees) and were having trouble fielding a team week to week. Ronnie Canterbury brought this guy named Anthony to me one evening and said he was wanting to play. I believe Ronnie wanted me to put him on our team but the need on the Plain White Tees was unmistakable. I told Anthony to find Andy Hill and he did so without protest. Right away I liked him. He just did as he was asked to do. Initially, he struggled. If I recall correctly, he fell victim to the first pitch strikeout in one of his first at bats and seemed mystified by the ball's uncanny ability to do aerial acrobatics. I did not expect him to return.

Much to my surprise, Anthony did return the following week and has been coming back ever since. Anthony caught on quick. By week 8 of the season he made play of the week and was getting the hang of the game and was Andy's go-to guy for the rest of the year. He took his lashings each week with the Plain White Tees the remainder of the season during a period I lovingly refer to as his "hazing period." Finishing the year as the only franchise in league history to go winless, I assumed Anthony would be less than thrilled with the league and did not figure he'd want any more to do with us. But I could not have been more wrong. Not only did he want to play in 2016 but he wanted to play on a team with me, a request to which I obliged.

2016 was a strange and wonderful year for the league and for me in particular. The league grew to 10 teams, changed it's format, and had a change in leadership. Patrick Rayl served as the league's commissioner that season and played on my team along with Jacob Fischer, Andy Hill, Alvie Shaw, and Anthony Stidham. Our team was loud, in-your-face, and could go toe-to-toe with any team in the league that year. Anthony put on a hitting display every month and was arguably one of the best hitters in the league that year. He was all-in on our team's Trump gimmick and chanted and jeered all season long at teams and his teammates alike. I've always been able to get along with any of my teammates over the years and pride myself on developing friendships with everyone I've played with. I'm used to having to do much of the heavy lifting in generating conversation or coming up with our inside jokes. But with Anthony it was different. He picked my brain about the game but also became a good friend very quickly. We talked about stuff outside of wiffleball. His wit gelled well with the rest of the team and we joked all season long whether or not we won our games. It was a magical season and it will be one I will always cherish.

I recognized Anthony's talent early on in his career. However, a lot of people did not. He joined our NWLA regional squad that went to Morenci, MI in June 2016. We had hoped to qualify for nationals but fell short. Anthony had been practicing his pitching but because he couldn't dazzle us with speed or filth he wasn't summoned to the mound until the final game with GCWL where he proved us to be fools as he seemed to have laser focus on the k-zone. I regard this as Anthony's only low-point in his budding wiffleball career, he may have been able to do more if he would have gotten the call to the mound sooner - we will never know.

In 2017, Anthony answered the call of duty again by accepting a position on the NWLA committee and doing the most difficult job - managing the equipment. He also endured a hellish season with Jeremy Ray as their team did not draft reliable players and they barely had enough players to field a team each month. The stress of being on the committee and being on a "barely there" team would be enough to make most men quit but he hung in there. His vision for what the league could be and what it already is keeps him here and that "potential" is something many of us see and it's something that Anthony will tell anyone who will listen.

This year Anthony is back for more. It's his second year on the committee and his fourth year as a player. He's become my right hand man on the league podcast as a cohost and even took the lead one episode and hosted it (the only other person besides me to host)! He's written several articles and will continue to do so this year. I've grown to respect him so much for doing everything I've ever asked him to do and for him to show initiative to do things on his own.

Sadly, Anthony will be unable to play this year. An Achilles injury has sidelined him as a player this year but he will be writing articles, taking photos, and doing whatever else he can to pitch in this year on the administrative level and hanging out while he mends. And while it's tragic to think of him wishing he could play, I look forward to hanging with a guy who has become a good friend and see him make his mark on pushing this league forward onto to bigger and better things. Thanks for all you've done so far, Anthony. There's much to do and I look forward to making this league all it can be with you and the other committee members.

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