Michael Goodman isn’t interested in being taken out to the ball game.
He envisioned the ball game coming to him, in a place where families can get together to celebrate warm weather and enjoy the community atmosphere and kids can have good, clean, and most importantly, supervised fun. Putting dreams into action, Goodman, a landscape contractor, turned his Barrington backyard into a baseball diamond for neighborhood wiffle ball games for years to come.
But why wiffle ball?
"Wiffle ball is safer and easier for little kids," Goodman explains. "And it doesn’t require a catcher or an umpire, since there’s a net behind the batter with a designated strike box. This way, all you need is two kids to play." Luckily for Goodman, his family—wife Helen, sons Keaton, 10, Jack, 8, James, 8, and Cooper, 5—comprise a team just by themselves.
Goodman’s company, M. Goodman Landscapes Inc., constructed the baseball diamond, giving Goodman great control over the project. The company creates backyard areas like barbecue pits, retaining walls and lush gardens and has also successfully ventured into building sports fields for children, so Goodman understood the task ahead of him.
"Making it involves cutting out the baselines and the pitcher’s mound, taking bad dirt out and putting back in an infield mix of sand, a certain type that gives you a grip, unlike sand from the beach," Goodman says. Despite what sounds like the potential for a huge mess, Goodman insists the upkeep "isn’t too bad."
A traditional wiffle ball field consists of a few designated lines behind the pitcher—a hit to the first line earns you a single, a hit to the second line a double, and so on. Goodman’s idea of playing wiffle ball on a traditional baseball diamond makes it more fun for older children while still keeping it a more gentle activity for the younger set.
Additional inspiration for Goodman’s backyard field was the element of convenience, something sure to bring some relief to other parents in his 400-home subdivision, Fox Point, as the "season" carries on.
"When you have four little kids, it’s just magnificent when they don’t have to be driven anywhere," Goodman says. "You want them at home so you can see them and see that they’re safe and having fun." Some of Goodman’s friends played wiffle ball as children and shared with him nostalgic stories of gathering in backyards to play, an image that clearly stuck in Goodman’s mind.
"Barrington is full of things to do for kids, but there’s something about just walking outside and playing with your neighbors and your friends," he says.
In the end, Goodman is really just a father looking out for the well-being of his kids while trying to gain some piece of mind.
"I see this as a great way to have fun with your family and know where your kids are. I just want to see the kids having fun a lot."