With summer winding down, barbecuing weekends are at a premium here in New England. Checking my calendar, I’ve been invited to attend five over the course of the next three weeks. One of the things I look forward to most, (besides the food, friends and libations of course) are the Wiffle Ball tournaments. Wiffle Ball, baseball’s [very] distant cousin, is usually seen informally on beaches, backyards or parks and played with a plastic molded bat and ball.
The tournaments, at least with my friends, are a high stakes game and very competitive. So, in preparation, I went on a quest to find out how to pitch the perfect slider.
In my search, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal. Within it, I was surprised to learn the Wiffle Ball’s design has remained unchanged for almost 60 years. “You’ve got to stick with what works,” said Stephen Mullany, Vice President, Wiffle Ball Inc.
Normally, I would agree with Mullany’s “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. But I have to wonder, with today’s powerful CAD software, should we analyze the ball’s weight, thickness, material, aerodynamics, and hand positioning, to see if it increases, and in some cases decreases, the ball’s speed or ability to curve? All can be done with 3D simulation without ever leaving the office or producing a physical prototype.
Quite a space-age approach when compared with the original product concept that Mullany’s grandfather came up with in 1953 when he brought two plastic halves of a perfume company’s promotional packet together and cut holes until he landed on what we all see on stores shelves today.
Mullany states that the design has never been formally analyzed, and perhaps this is as good a time as any. With the rising cost of petroleum (their products are petroleum-based) and the need for efficiencies in the manufacturing process (they employ two injection-mold machines); it may revolutionize how Wiffle conducts its business and how its customers engage with its product out in the field.
Now, back to that original question, how do I throw that perfect slider?