Everybody knows how competitive childhood back garden sporting showdowns can get.
Ten years ago, Kyle Schultz was just a normal 10-year-old playing Wiffle Ball, a variant of baseball using a plastic bat and ball, with his brother and best friend in Brighton, Michigan, USA.
Then one day, he had the idea of filming their games and putting the videos online. Major League Wiffle Ball (MLW) was born and now a decade later his channel has over 168,000 subscribers.
Schultz said: “The first season in 2009 was rough. It’s
exactly how you would picture 10-year-olds playing in a ‘competitive league’ –
not a care in the world, just playing in the garden with our buddies.
“I just decided to pick up a camera and record the games and put them up on YouTube, I had no idea what it would become.
“There was two teams and five people in the league. Despite only being 10, we wanted to make it as professional and serious as possible.
“So we made a field in the garden and called it ‘Cultz Field’ – which is my last name Schultz and my friend’s last name Coughlin combined – so there wasn’t a lot of creativity there.”
In 2017, after steady growth, the channel blew up. They got sponsors for the league, started doing tournaments around the country and their fun side-project became a full-blown business.
“In 10 years, I’ve seen it all, most of the guys work really hard and show a lot of dedication to the league, which makes my job so much easier. Now, we’ve had somewhere between 75 and 100 players play in MLW and we have eight teams,” Schulz said.
Like any sports league, MLW has had stories, interesting sub-plots and superstar players, including Schultz and his brother Daniel.
Schultz said: “We’ve had some great stories that have come from the league. The best one is one team that started in 2013 called the ‘Pacific Predators’ and none of them had any baseball background and they were just friends of mine from school.
“They were really bad for a while and barely won any games but over the years they were so dedicated to the league that eventually they won their first title seven years later. It was so awesome.
“I’ve also won six championships myself, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
This year, as the world was starved of live sports, many turned to MLW.
They appeared on America’s biggest sports channel ESPN, and the season opener had over 734,000 views.
But Schultz isn’t resting on his laurels. He wants the league to keep growing.
He said: “After I graduate from university, I plan to run MLW full-time, we have big goals.
“We want to have a country wide tournament circuit and then another big goal of mine is to have our own stadium where fans can come and watch us play, that’d be so cool.
“It’s what I love to do, I’m so fortunate to have amazingly talented and dedicated players in the league and none of this would be possible without our fans who have supported us along the ride.
“I’m so excited for the next decade.”