A Family Affair
A Family Affair
A Father, Daughter, Son and Brother/Uncle Team are on the Rise
By Nick Schaefer
Whether it's Little League, high school or professional sports, it is not completely uncommon to have family members on the same team. The professional sports world has seen teams that feature a combination of brothers, father and son, and even a father and two sons on the same squad.
But a wiffleball team from Salisbury, Maryland has taken the family dynamic to a whole new level.
The New School Risers features wiffleball veteran, captain and father Dave Capobianco (41), his daughter Kyleigh (16), son Matt (14), and his recently added brother and past teammate Jason (34), all in the same uniform.
Old School to New School
Dave is no stranger on the wiffleball circuit, having enjoyed past success with the Old School Risers in both Fast Plastic and Wiffle Up tournaments. Like most wifflers, Dave enjoys sharing stories of his wiffleball exploits, which include leading his team (along with Jason and friend Paige Hurley) to two strong finishes in the Fast Plastic national tournament in Texas. And like most kids, Kyleigh and Matt believed but smirked at their father’s stories.
But that changed (along with the team’s name) back in 2012 in Baltimore when the team – Dave, his brother Jason and his two kids, ages 10 and 8 at the time – played in their first wiffleball tournament together.
“I think they [Kyleigh and Matt] were pretty excited about it [playing wiffleball with their father],” Dave said. “They would always get on me for talking about the old days with baseball or wiffleball. For them to see it upfront and be involved, I think gives them a bit of appreciation and understanding that they didn’t have before.”
And appreciate they did, all the way to the top of the tournament.
“The teams thought it was a joke, but we ended up winning it all,” Dave added.
Dave said he could tell his two children loved playing right away.
“We get up at five in the morning on a Saturday to drive more than three hours to play all day,” Dave said. “And not one time have these two teenagers complained. That tells me a lot.”
Although the family took a short sabbatical from wiffleball for a few years, the winning and family fun continued in 2018 when the Risers returned to wiffleball when they debuted in MAW in May 2018. The threesome turned some heads by defeating the Barrell Bruisers, York Yaks, Longballs and ERL on their way to a championship game appearance and second place finish.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Risers are expanding upon their 2018 success. They currently sit 6th in the MAW point standings and qualify for the Championship Tournament in September thanks to their second-place finish in the June 15th MAW Wiffle Wars tournament.
The Risers have proven it is not just all fun and games and they can compete with the best of them. In a sports world filled with and trending towards super teams, the New School Risers are showing that a collection of family members can compete against all-star teams.
“We are at a big disadvantage, mostly due to a lack of pitching depth and experience,” Dave said about facing teams filled with experienced, all-star quality players. “But we wouldn’t have it any other way. When you play with your team, see things come together, and end up winning, it is so much sweeter. Similar to how the Old School Risers did it back in the day. And that’s not a crack on any team that builds itself to win and win now. The cash prize and bragging rights are pretty damn sweet too!”
The Risers are once again proving a sport created as a backyard family sport can still be that on a competitive level.
“There is something uniquely special about wiff,” said Dave. “It feeds the competitive side and the backyard feeling of hanging with friends and family. I always wanted to get back to it and especially with my kids being a little older where they could appreciate the talent and skills involved it takes to play at this level.”
Despite being away from fast-pitch wiffleball for close to 11 years, Dave still remains one of the game’s best all-around players, displaying his top-level ability to pitch, hit and field.
“Haha, I didn’t really,” Dave said about the training he did to prepare for his return. “I was coaching Little League a lot, so I guess hitting grounders and throwing batting practice to 12 to 13-year old [kids] helped.”
As with any sport, things get more challenging for athletes as they age, even those considered legends. But Dave is no ordinary player. Back in the mid-to-late 2000s, Dave won two Wiffle Up Tournaments by himself. Yes, you heard that correctly. He was a one-man team or more accurately, a one-man wrecking crew.
“I was in much better shape then, but it is a long day and fatigue takes over towards the end of the day,” remembered Dave. “The biggest disadvantage is not having any other defense. The biggest advantage, though, is just hitting, hitting and hitting. That overcomes a lot.”
So, it should be no surprise his return to MAW has been a rousing success. Dave has pitched the bulk of the innings for his squad, displayed a great “glove” in the field, and crushed some clutch homers.
Like Father, Like Daughter, Like Son
Of course, his two all-star athlete kids have helped greatly. Kyleigh, a two-sport varsity high school athlete in softball and soccer, and Matt, a soccer and baseball player, have shown that the Cabobianco family is filled with great athletes.
“We played in the backyard over the years,” Dave said. “I just want them to enjoy all the different experiences life has to offer. They both have been motivated to get better and have improved results at wiffleball as we are a pretty competitive family. I threw a few innings before the first tourney. I even plunked them a few times so they wouldn’t be scared by a fast ball.”
Both Kyleigh and Matt are now enjoying the same sport their father has played for a long time.
“It’s just fun to be able to play and how hard it is,” Matt said. “It’s so different from other sports, but also a little similar.”
“Playing with family is always fun and exciting,” Kyleigh added. “I like how wiffleball is different, unique and challenging. You have to use a lot more technique and skill rather than athleticism.”
The sport is not just unique, the Capobianco family is as well.