With no sports, Prospect athletes form neighborhood wiffle ball league

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

From left, Greg Aldrich, Matt Iannone, Brooke Iannone, Devon Polletta, Josh Powanda, Zach Powanda, Dante Polletta and Ryan Iannone make up the Coachlight Wiffle League in Prospect. –CONTRIBUTED

PROSPECT — When sports are canceled, just take the game into your own hands.

That’s what a group of Prospect athletes decided this spring when they created the Coachlight Wiffle League, a four-team, eight-player league based at the Iannone residence.

Matthew Iannone, a 2019 Woodland grad who just completed his freshman year at UConn, had formed a small Wiffle ball league last summer, but he realized the homebound circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to expand.

“When I got home from school, we started talking it up,” said Matt, who got the ball rolling with his younger brother, Ryan, a Long River Middle School student. “We wanted the league name to correspond with either Coachlight (Circle) or Prospect, so we came up with the team names, and Josh Powanda designed all the logos and made jerseys.”

The four teams are the Coachlight Capitals (Josh Powanda and Dante Polletta), the Coachlight Cubs (Matthew Iannone and Devon Polletta), the Prospect Pandas (Ryan Iannone and Zach Powanda), and the Prospect Pioneers (Brooke Iannone and Greg Aldrich).

All games are played at the field they’ve dubbed Coachlight Corner, located in the Iannones’ backyard. The Polletta twins, who graduated from Woodland last week, serve as groundskeepers.

“We have a turf mound, two dirt batter’s boxes, and a beautiful backstop, a fence, foul poles, sponsors of all kinds,” said Devon, who mows the field once a week.

But what qualifications do these soccer and tennis players have to maintain a field?

“We mow our grandma’s lawn, and a few people in our neighborhood, we mow their lawns for them,” Dante said. “Devon does the lawn mowing, and I do the weed whacking and make sure the field looks beautiful. We make nice lines and stuff — it looks really good.”

“We’ve been mowing lawns since we were, like, 8,” Devon added. “I’m not a professional, but I know what we’re doing.”

The big-time field has a big-time feel, complete with an announcer, Prospect Elementary School student Ella Iannone. Coachlight Corner also hosts a big-time schedule. Each team plays a three-game series each week against another team, and the league plans on scheduling each team to meet in three three-game series throughout the season. Before the end of the summer, the Coachlight Wiffle League will host a best-of-five World Series.

The Cubs have emerged as the favorite early in the season. In a 22-5 rout of the Capitals, Matt clubbed three homers while Devon added a grand slam — yes, with those classic ghost runners.

“We’re eight games up right now and just running away with it,” Devon bragged last week before being corrected by the rest of the room, insisting the lead was only three games. “Matt’s the best pitcher I’ve ever seen in my life. He throws strikes, hits dingers — there’s nothing he can’t do.”

The Capitals remain undaunted.

“The Coachlight Capitals are going to take it home this year,” said Josh, the 2019 Naugatuck Valley League boys tennis singles champion who just completed his freshman year at Seton Hall. “Dante is really improving his pitching, but I’m still mediocre at everything.”

Brooke, who is the league secretary and has helped with sponsorship signs from Ann’s Deli, Pistritto Tile, Photography by Allen, and Tynan and Iannone Attorneys at Law, still holds out hope for her squad.

“The Pioneers are going to make a comeback,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Pandas have encountered a midseason setback.

“I actually broke my thumb in one game,” Ryan said. “I hope to return soon. We have a fill-in player right now.”

Zach, the social media correspondent, maintains a YouTube channel (Coachlight Wiffle Ball) and an Instagram profile (@cwl.wiffle). Soon, those channels will turn their focus to the Ann’s Deli Home Run Derby, Old Timers Day (when the neighborhood’s parents will get involved), and the All-Star Game.

Just to be sure, the league makes sure to follow all recommended precautions to deal with the pandemic.

“Before all the safety measures were lifted, we made sure players were wearing masks at the field,” Matt noted. “We Lysol wiped the bats and balls, had hand sanitizer ready, and made sure the players were respecting social distance.”