Six years ago, Henry Brandmark, then 13 years old, signed up for the annual Northern Virginia Wiffle Ball World Series on a team called "Fast Plastic," expecting a day filled with friends and sport at Vienna's Waters Field.
What he didn't expect was how deeply the tournament, run by the nonprofit of a local baseball player who died of brain cancer in 2005, would impact his life.
Today, Brandmark, who graduated Madison High School in June, counts the tournament as his "favorite day of the year," both for the competition on the field and the cause for which thousands of players suit up and raise money each year.
"It's a great privilege to be able to play in a wiffle ball tournament and have as much fun as we do as well as helping raise money for a great cause," Brankdmark said. "People don't realize how much time they put into the tourney and how much time they put into the charity."
This Saturday marks the 17th annual world series, and the eighth run by the 2 Young Foundation, a Vienna-based nonprofit local player Brian Bedell, an Oakton High grad, formed with friends and his wife, Amy, after he was diagnosed with a grade IV glioblastoma brain tumor.
The group is "dedicated to caring for families and patients affected by brain cancer, connecting communities to generate public awareness, and committing funds to further research in curing this disease."
The year following Bedell's diagnosis, the foundation brought back one of his favorite childhood sports — wiffle ball — as its first charity event.
It's an event that continues to benefit the 2YF foundation. This year's tournament is scheduled for Saturday.
At the inaugural event in 2005, Bedell — an avid sports fan and athlete who continued to play on two to three teams a season — could barely sit himself up in bed, said Michael Ryan, Bedell's childhood friend. Bedell left his job at the American Red Cross to pursue experimental clinical trials at The Brain Tumor Center at Duke University in Durham, N.C., because traditional treatments for his diganosis did not offer much hope for long-term survival. He had internal radiation delivered via a catheter directly into his brain (MAB), three more craniotomies, multiple chemotherapy treatments and external beam radiation.
Still, on May 23, 2005, Bedell sat in a wheelchair behind home plate at the tournament's Herndon location. He stayed until the final four, watching Ryan and his former teammates play wiffle ball, all of them wearing jerseys with Bedell's name and number — 22 — on the back.
Less than 48 hours later, Bedell died at age 35, leaving behind his wife Amy, his 65-lb. yellow lab Libby, parents Mary Bedell of Vienna and Bob and Jenny Bedell of Indianapolis, along with a sister and two twin nephews, who he mentored like his own.
Eight years later and there are still traces of Bedell's quick wit, easy smile and signature laugh on Waters Field each year, organizers told Patch last year.
And the 'little wiffle ball tournament' isn't so little, anymore. Local businesses offer their support through sponsorships, food or activity donations. The space between the fields, community center and firehouse come alive with families watching or playing ball.
As of last year, the foundation had brought in more than a quarter million dollars, used for cancer research and grants for cancer patients. Last year, the foundation raised $45,000 For Brain Cancer
The all-day tournament features four leagues based on skill-level and age: Little League, Minor League, Major League and Masters League. Each team raises at least $240 to participate; the two teams with the highest amount raised get an automatic bid to the Sweet 16.
Brandmark will take the field again Saturday with fellow Warhawks Nate Favero (signed with Brigham-Young University), Tim Davis (Georgetown) and hs father.
The tournament is "great fun," Brandmark says — and it gets pretty intense (some teams actually root against their squad, he said). "But in the end it is all for a great cause."
The tournament kicks off at 8 a.m. at Waters Field, Vienna.
|8:00am||Team Registration – Bullpen Opens
|8:30am||Spectator Gates Open
|9:15am||Opening Ceremonies (Bedell Trophy Presentation)
|1:50pm||Home Run Derby
|2:00pm||Road to the Final Four
Final Four (Bedell Park)
Kids World Closes!
|5:00pm||Championship Game & Raffle (Bedell Park)
|5:30pm||Post-Party at “Vienna Inn Clubhouse”
(Firehouse 2nd Floor Flame Room)
For more information, visit the tournament's website at 2yf.org.