Featuring Joe "ACE" Terwilliger
So Ace, you've been officially crowned the "King of Diamonds" after sweeping the speed challenges last summer in Frankenmuth and Lansing - clocking just 14.9 seconds around the bases. Do you think you can beat that mark in the future?
It was a dream of mine to compete and win a speed competition in vintage baseball since I was a kid. Growing up watching my dad (Crazy Legs) compete and win the Fleetest Afoot Speed Challenge in Northville each year fueled me to keep the family tradition rolling once I was given the opportunity. 2022 was the first year in my career as a ballist that not only one but two challenges became available for me to finally compete in. It was a blast to be able to partake in both events and definitely will keep pushing myself harder each season to beat my time. I have a personal goal of 14.5 seconds that I’ll try to hit one day and will continue to run in speed events to beat my previous records.
Are you faster than Crazy Legs was in his prime?
I know he says I am, but I honestly like to think he had a step up on me back in the day. Even if I am indeed faster than him, I like to think I'm not to constantly give me that drive to keep pushing myself to keep getting better. I know hes still got it though and I have been trying hard to get him to compete against me as long as he's feeling healthy. I get my determination from him so i know it would be a fun match to watch.
You've been a starting right fielder at the GFV World Tournament for the last 4 seasons, playing on the hill between the train tracks and dirt road - is there a tougher place to catch a fly ball?
There really isn't. The infamous GFV hill is something that is very challenging to conquer. To properly catch a fly ball you have to track the ball with the afternoon sun in your eyes, while calculating the incline and speed so that you don’t slide on the road, twist an ankle, and miss the ball entirely. It is a very hard thing to do. Any fly ball caught on that hill is a huge accomplishment that I believe is often overlooked. With the new rule set at GFV making any ball over the train tracks a foul ball, it definitely has lead to less hits my way, leading me to adjust my defensive play to keep myself incorporated into the team the best I can. Although I've had my fair share of interesting right fields over the years, none of them compare to that hill on Walnut Grove 1.
What things are you looking to add to your game as you enter your 9th full season? What's your offseason training been like?
I’m working on cleaning up my fielding a bit and pushing myself harder on the defensive end since it’s been shown for awhile now that the best defensive team on the field wins the most Championships. Offensively I've been working on perfecting my swing and pushing myself to give every ounce of support I can to my team when I'm at the plate.
Off-seasons are tough but I like to stay active on the basketball court weekly to keep my endurance up. During the winter I'm normally swinging the bat and hit at the indoor cages every chance I get. With all the recordings of our games on hand now as well, it’s been highly beneficial to rewatch games and see where I can improve and increase my knowledge of the game altogether.
What's left on your vintage baseball bucket list?
I have been blessed to be able to start playing this sport at a young age, and it has allowed me to partake in a lot of cool events and achieve some crazy accomplishments over the years. From playing at the original Field of Dreams, having a tournament match won while filmed by ESPN, winning key events such as the World Tournament, State Cup, & the Akron Cup. Along with personal events such as the Gingerly Gentleman Contest in Frankenmuth and the Hotfoot Derby Contest in Lansing. If I were to be able to complete a few more items off my list, it would have to be winning the Gettysburgh tournament at some point, and skipping Worlds to compete and win the Silverball Tournament.
Last question: What would you say to somebody who thinks they can beat 14.9?
Go for it! If someone could do it and set a faster record, huge congrats. I’ll gladly beat that time in my next go around.
interview by who
game photos: jenna gogola