PAWTUCKET --- Edd Pedro has been a busy man these days. Very busy.
The namesake and driving force behind what will be the eighth edition of the Edd Pedro Wiffleball Tournament has been burning the midnight oil this week making final preparations for Sunday’s mega-event at Slater Park.
“This week’s been pretty crazy,” Pedro said on Tuesday night during a break from his preparations. “I’m up to midnight every night normally, and I’m just out in my garage working on something for the tournament.
“Between trying to get the raffle prize list up and right, building the brackets, getting the shirt order in and getting them all sorted, making sure we have all the food and prizes, taking all the backstops out of storage and making sure they’re all working and not broken, I’ve been hard at work.”
Hard work has been nothing new to Pedro when it comes to this tournament, which last year, drew 76 teams in three divisions (Adult Competitive, Youth, and “Just for Fun”) and more than 1,500 people in attendance and raised over $26,000, bringing the tourney’s seven-year fundraising total to $173,000.
And the proceeds from the day-long event go toward the Arthritis Foundation, a non-profit organization that has helped Pedro and his family during a time of need.
Eight years ago, Pedro’s three-year-old daughter, Kelsey, was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, a form of arthritis in youngsters that results in joint pain and swelling. But thanks to medicine that a doctor prescribed her, the JRA was well under control.
“And we just got informed today that she got taken off all her medications,” offered Pedro. “We went to the doctors (Tuesday) and they officially took her off all of them. That was huge. She was having to take a shot every week.”
Thankful for the help he received from the Arthritis Foundation, Pedro wanted to give back to the organization, and he figured a great way to do so -- with a fun event that will attract people of all ages, like a wiffleball tournament.
Pedro’s first tournament was merely a small gathering “with a few friends and a few teams,” but once word of the tournament’s success spread like wildfire through and outside the city, it grew and grew into one of the largest events in the northeast part of the country.
“It’s just been amazing,” added Pedro. “I never envisioned it getting this big. This tournament is always on my mind.”
Pedro’s tournament has consistently drawn teams from around New England to compete for its Adult Competitive title, and one of the local teams, Scared Hitless from North Providence, has captured the last four championships. But will that team be back for a “Drive for Five” this summer?
“The defending champs, as of right now, doesn’t look like they will be back,” said Pedro, citing off-the-field commitments by two of its players as the main reason. “Right now, everyone’s trying to lick their chops, thinking that they’re the team now.”
Some of the teams that should compete for the title are Backyard Wiffleheads, who won the title five years ago, Dizzy Bats, which took second last year and “they’re going to be strong,” offered Pedro, and a West Coast team, the Whiz Kids, who are making a cross country trek from Washington.
Plus, there Gear Up, which took ninth in last year’s tournament, but fourth in 2009 and ’08, and Asian Groundhogs, which is headed by Anthony Goes, one of Predro’s former teammates.
“Anthony has six guys on his team,” reported Pedro. “He wants to make sure he doesn’t run out of pitching.”
While Scared Hitless’ presence in the tourney is in question, so is the return of Pedro’s own team, the Crash Test Dummies, which has consistently placed in the top 10 in past tournaments, but did not appear in last year’s event.
“We might be semi-reitred,” added Pedro, whose team features his brother-in-law, former Tolman hockey coach Tom Vecoli. “It’s a busy day and it’s tough to play. I may be in the middle of an at-bat and I’d have to go over to another field and interpret rules. Last year, I was hurt, so I didn’t play, and this year, I don’t know.”
While the Adult Competitive division drew 36 teams last summer, the Just for Fun division fielded 31, and one team that will be in this year’s tournament is Team Grebien, which will feature Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien.
In addition to the awarding of three division championships, there will also be a home run hitting contest and an adult and youth winner crowned champion, and there will be an award for the team sporting the best uniform.
While the games have been the featured attraction for the hundreds of fans in attendance, so is the tournament’s infamous mega-raffle, which at $5 a ticket (or six for $25), folks can try their luck at winning one of 14 lucrative prizes.
Some of the prizes include a round for four at Quidnessett Country Club, round-trip tickets to Florida and tickets and a parking pass to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game, a deep sea fishing trip, and a weekend getaway in Vermont.
For Boston sports fans, there are items such as an autographed photo of Bobby Orr scoring the game-winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals, autographed Boston Red Sox memorabilia, the chance to throw out the first pitch before a Pawtucket Red Sox game, and tickets to a Red Sox-Rangers game on Labor Day weekend that are 10 rows from the field between the Rangers’ dugout and home plate.
There is also a less expensive, but much larger raffle -- more than 140 prizes -- that for $1 a ticket (or six for $5 or an arm-length for $10), folks can take a stab at winning prizes ranging from local gift certificates to dirt from Fenway Park’s infield.
“That’s one of the highlights of the tournament,” said Pedro. “People have to come down and check out our raffle. We really have some great prizes.”
The tourney will also feature a silent auction that contains tickets to sporting events and high-priced gift certificates, plenty of food and music, a rock wall, carnival games, and a blood drive conducted by the R.I. Blood Center.
Even though the tournament is only days away, Pedro said that there’s still a handful of spots open in each division for any teams still looking to play.
“There are a few openings left, but they are quickly filling up,” he added. “If any teams still want to get in, they will have to sign up ASAP.”
Pedro is also looking for a few more volunteers to help out with the tourney, and anybody who can lend a hand should contact him at 725-1619 or via e-mail at email@example.com .
“I’m also always looking for help on the committee,” he added. “If anybody has to do any kind of community service or anything, we could always use the help.”
More information on the tourney can be located on the Facebook page “Edd Pedro's Fight for a Cure Mega Raffle and Wiffleball Tournament,” which just went over 500 followers, and the tournament website www.wiffleman.com .
“(Comedian) Lenny Clarke did my promo for me on the website,” said Pedro. “I work with his brother, and he asked Lenny and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll give him a hand.’ ”