MOUNT VERNON — Sam Moore is standing in his backyard and he’s getting a little wistful.
That can happen to 20-year-olds. Certain things stick with you. Moore built a world-class Wiffle Ball field in his backyard. He’s seeing it in his head right now and, yeah, it stings a little.
It was called Wiffle Park. It was home to endless games between members of the Copperheads, the youth baseball team in Mount Vernon that had future Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs at first base.
Had to have been “Tristan Rules,” right?
“Oh boy. I’m on the field right now,” Moore said. “Ace Hardware is right here in right field. I’d say the roof of Ace Hardware was the home run for Tristan. For everyone else, it was hard to hit it even to these dumpsters right here.”
Sam used to wince when Wirfs ran the bases.
“It was weird talking with a third-grader that big,” said Sam’s dad, Sean Moore.
Sam laughed at the notion of “Tristan Rules.”
“Yes, yes, for sure,” he said. “If there was one person who tore the grass up the most, it was him. He was sliding around.”
12-year-old Sam Moore took this field to heart. You’ve got to check out this detail.
“I’m like, ‘Let’s do this and make it look cool, at least,’” he said. “So, up went the lights, sound system, turf, dirt, scoreboard, sprinkler system.”
• The scoreboard was a piece of plywood. Painted white with “Home” and “Visitor” in black with flip boards for score and inning, it was nailed to a tree with a light shining above.
You know, for night games.
• Of course, night games. To fully get those going, there was a flood light on the roof.
• There was a legit batter’s box, with a mowed path from the mount to the plate.
• Of course, the baselines were chalked. Bleachers and the backstop were added in later years.
• There was a sound system. How else would you know who’s up to bat?
• Oh yeah, Sam installed a sprinkler system. It still works. His dad still uses it.
• You want logos? Sam painstakingly painted the Wiffle Ball and MLB logos at the edge of the infield and where the outfield (kind of an outfield) sort of was.
“I just became mesmerized by the caretakers of the field, doing their thing,” Sam said. “From there, our yard is so small. I think it got to the point where we really couldn’t even play because it got so small.”
It was like an Eagle Scout project.
“I was out there all day, every summer,” he said.
Did your friends enjoy it?
“Honestly, they enjoyed it more than I expected them to. Because of how small the space is, you can’t even play, it’s so damn small,” Sam said.
Sam Moore isn’t 12 anymore. He’s 20 standing in his driveway, having a moment of reminiscence.
Was it sad when you had to take it down?
“It just kind of faded away from me,” he said. “There was one sad moment. I came back from my first week of college and the mound was grassed over. Dad had taken the artificial turf out. He took the mound out and leveled it. I built an actual clay mound. He grassed it over. It hit me where it’s like, ‘Yep, you’re growing up, man.’”
Jan Moore, Sam’s mom, still tears up, said Sean, destroyer of clay mounds. Yes, Sean absolutely got emotional when he took out the mound.
“It marked the end of the little-kid stage and the beginning of the big-kid high school stage,” Sean said. “It did make the yard a lot easier to mow, however. The ‘head groundskeeper’ got too busy with sports, school and music.”
Sam Moore is visiting home on this late July day. He sees where the field was.
He’s still kind of into it.
Sam is switching to Hawkeye Community College and getting life going.
“I think I’ve got it figured out,” he said. “It’s actually landscape. It’s related to what I grew up doing.”