Q&A with Guinness World Record Holder Cole Hetzel

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Photo courtesy of Cole Hetzel.

You may not have heard about it yet, but a Guinness World Record holder walks among us. Here on campus, first-year Cole Hetzel is on the cross-country team and is a student in the School of Music. Back in his hometown of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, however, he’s somewhat of a local celebrity. In June of 2020, Hetzel  and nine others broke the world record for ‘Longest Marathon Playing Wiffle Ball.’

The DePauw: What made you attempt to try to break a Guinness World Record and why did you choose Wiffle ball?

Hetzel: Back in seventh or eighth grade, my friends, my dad  and I, constructed a Wiffle ball field in our backyard. I’ve always loved baseball, so I loved Wiffle ball. [Since] we had the space for it, we would play every summer. Then, back in 2019, my cousin and I were playing and I’m not exactly sure how we came across the idea, but we were looking on the Guinness World Records website. We found the whole Wiffle ball thing and were like ‘Hey, we can do this. This will be a fun challenge.’ So we applied the next summer and we did it.

TDP: Summer 2020 was a tough one. Did the pandemic hinder any of your plans or cause setbacks?

CH: Certainly, even though we weren’t a major sporting event, just like any other event we had to take the pandemic into consideration. [We] had to have social distancing guidelines and masks for everyone, but we were still able to make it work and it was incredible.

TDP: What is the preparation process for breaking a world record like? How do you find people to help you and what do they say when you ask them and explain your goal?

CH: It was a lot harder than I thought. I figured I would just submit my application and be done and not have to deal with it for a year, but it really helped prepare me for life in a way. I was leading the event and all that preparation helps strengthen leadership for sure. I had to get a bunch of people together because the way Guinness works is they require you to either pay to have someone from [Guinness] come to adjudicate your record or you can use people in your local community, so I had to talk to people and say ‘Do you want to come to my house from 4 to 8 a.m. and just play Wiffle ball?’ That was definitely tough. And there was quite a lot of prep involved to get the food and water and to have volunteers and to record the entire thing. It was quite a lengthy process, but it was worth the pain.

TDP: Can you tell us a bit about how the game went?

CH: It was really a fun time. My favorite part of the event was really just seeing the sun set and rise again and still be playing Wiffle ball. There were quite a few shenanigans through the game, but not many I can recall off the top of my head. I know everyone had a great time. I didn’t even know [all the players] at the beginning of the game, some of them were friends of friends but by the end we all felt like we bonded with each other. We had a fun time. The final score was 638 to 347. I was on the winning team. We were randomly divided up into teams. My team was clearly dominant, which was fun, but we went for a total of 69 innings, so it was quite a long game.

TDP: Is it true the event was for charity? What organization did you donate to and why?

CH: It was for Saint Vincent de Paul. I’ve worked with them in the past and I know many people in the program. I really like what they do.

TDP:  Do you have any other Guinness World Record ambitions?

CH: Yes, actually, it’s funny you mentioned that. My friend and I last year—I guess we weren’t satisfied with the first game. So I planned [the Wiffle ball game], and he said ‘Hey, want to do another one, Cole?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, sure!’ So, we did a Foursquare game. This time to raise money for homeless veterans. We did it in our high school gym at the beginning of this summer. So we have that record now too. It’s very similar- 30 hours and two minutes because we wanted to push it a whole minute further. I figured I’d stop with one. The first record was fun—like the novelty of breaking the record—but with the second one, I guess we realized we’re just gluttons for punishment and like staying up for 30 hours and doing these fun events. It was a great time.

Both of Hetzel’s records can be found on the Guinness World Records website under “Longest Marathon Playing Wiffle Ball,” and “Longest Marathon Playing Four Square.”