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MAKANDA - Tim Reiman had just moved from De Soto to Makanda back in 1996 when he was milling around on his four-wheeler, checking out the countryside around his new home.

He happened upon what most folks would consider a useless patch of grass in the middle of the woods.

But Reiman saw an opportunity.

"A bunch of my friends always wanted to play wiffleball all the time," Reiman said. "So I told them I'd see if I could clear out this area so we could play."

Reiman talked to the owner of the lot, who gave him the go.

"So I brought out the bushhog and knocked down all the tall grass," Reiman said.

Most folks would have stopped there, but Reiman and fellow Southern Illinois University student Brad Henderson got ambitious.

"A couple months later it was, 'Let's put some bases in,' Reiman said. "Then it was, 'Let's put a fence up.' Then, 'Let's put some lights up.'

What has evolved over the past seven years is a real-life 'Field of Dreams.'

Pineview Park, hidden away on an understated gravel path just off Pineview Road in Makanda, would give many area high school ball diamonds a run for their money.

The field features an all-grass infield, backstop, gravel warning track, storage shed for equipment, bat-rack, manually-operated scoreboard and an American flag in centerfield.

The parks' most impressive features: Outdoor lights powered by a 5,500-watt generator and a chain-link outfield fence featuring signs from the numerous sponsors of the Southern Illinois Wiffleball League, a group of six area teams that call Pineview Park home.

"It just kept going on and on and we haven't stopped," Reiman said of the field. "We decided we just wanted to get a little bigger because everyone was so interested in it."

The SIWL, which started to materialize last fall, plays regular-season fall and spring schedules at the park, along with a summer tournament, which will be held this season on July 6.

The league features players of all ages and walks of life, including high schoolers, SIU students and Carbondale firefighters. Reiman's father even has a team.

Reiman, who is president of the league, also serves as umpire, statistician and groundskeeper. He even maintains the league's web page, www.geocities.com/tmreiman/, which includes league stats, news and inter-team banter.

Henderson, the league's vice president, takes care of the business end of the burgeoning league. His services became necessary when members of the league realized they had a good enough product to attract sponsors.

The league now has 12 local sponsors, 10 of which have signs on the outfield wall and help with the mounting expenses of the field.

"The sponsors have helped pay for some expenses at the ballpark, while other things have been donated," Henderson said.

But Reiman and Henderson have had to foot the bill for much of the rest, with costs venturing into quadruple digits.

"We haven't begun to break even, but that doesn't matter at all to us," Henderson said. "Our objective is not to make money.

"The day I start doing it for money instead of wiffleball, that's the day I'll quit. What we've done on two college kids' budgets is pretty impressive."

There is also a hefty time commitment to maintaining your own wiffleball stadium - Reiman says he spends an average of 20-30 hours a week at the field during the season.

"There is so much that goes into it," Henderson said. "I can remember when it was 95 degrees and we had a truck load of manure and were taking it out there for the grass. There is no end to it.

"Neither one of us had any idea how much time would go into this, but its well worth it."

Reiman agrees, especially after the addition of the lights, which were brought in to accommodate league members who couldn't play during the day.

"Playing night wiffleball, it's like one of the greatest things you can do at night," Reiman said. "It's awesome playing wiffleball under the lights."

"That was the thing that put it over the top," said Henderson of the lights.

But why wiffleball? The answer is simple - it's fun.

"It's the right mix between fun and competition," Henderson said. "We both still play softball, but wiffleball will comes first. There's less attitudes. People out there are competitive, but wiffleball brings out the kid in them. They aren't going to get a shouting match over a play at second."

The SIWL is still looking for more teams, and its cost-benefits favor comparably with softball.

Cost to enter the league is $15 per person, and includes a T-shirt with the official league logo and free stat updates on the website. The extras make it more than worthwhile.

"Last fall, we had the TV set up out here on Sundays so everybody could watch football games out here," Reiman said.

They even shot off bottle rockets from the flag pole in centerfield last summer after each home run.

And there may be more to come.

"Next, we're thinking putting two outdoor speakers up, and organize it so that each player will have a 15 second intro in the fall season," Henderson said. "And we're working on a hill area for people to watch games."

Pineview Park is proof positive that in wiffleball, just as baseball, if you build it they will come.

"Most people don't think too much of it," Henderson said of wiffleball, "but when they get out to see the field they are pretty awe struck.

"That's what we've built around - the field."

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