The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020

Wren Wiffleball, festival Covid-19 victims

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

WREN — August 1 is usually a day of excitement, of anticipation, in the village of Wren. That’s because it’s the day people sign up to become one of the 16 teams to play in the annual Wiffleball Tournament later in the month. Representatives of wannabe teams often camp out for days to be one of the first 16 in line to enter their team in the tournament.

The excitement of the Wren Wiffleball tournament will not be happening this year with the decision to cancel the popular event. VW independent file photo

Not this year.

There will be no opening ceremonies at Wrenway Park this year because, for the first time in its 29-year history, the tournament is not being held. For Jack Davis, the man most responsible for putting the tournament on each year during the Wren Homecoming celebration, this year is not a happy one.

“This has been the craziest year I can remember,” he said.

Noting that the process of putting on the Wiffleball Tournament is a yearlong process, Davis said the Wiffleball Warehouse Committee usually has its first meeting of the year in April to begin planning for that year’s tournament. However, with the Covid-19 shutdown that meeting had to be canceled, forcing members to communicate through emails and phone calls.

By mid-June, Davis said, other than activities with a long lead time, nothing much had been done to get this year’s event moving. That’s when the committee, which does the bulk of the work on the event, finally met.

“I was super optimistic,” Davis said, noting that, although February, March, and April had been bad, things were beginning to look up by the time the meeting was held. “I went into the meeting not expecting the pushback I got.”

While Davis was ready to hold the event at that point, with some cleaning stations and masks and social distancing, he noted others on the committee had concerns about the advisability of having the tournament.

Although Davis was able to get committee members to wait until the first week of July before making a final decision, he said he knew things would have to continue to improve if the tournament was going to be a go.

“We no more got done with that meeting and it started to go the other way,” Davis said. “Van Wert County went from 14 to 40 cases, we were talking about shutting down Texas and Florida again … so we made the decision to end it.”

Unfortunately, that decision also ultimately affected the fate of Wren Homecoming as well.

Although the Wiffleball Committee is separate from the Wren Ballpark Association, which puts on the Wren Homecoming celebration, the tournament brings in a large portion of those coming to the festival.

“That was a big blow to the Homecoming, because that’s a big draw,” Davis said, noting that, ultimately, the village’s attorney, Scott Gordon, recommended canceling that event as well because of the potential legal liability.

Davis said the loss of the tournament and Homecoming this year will also affect the Ballpark Association, which is the recipient of most of the profits from both the tournament and festival. The money raised has allowed Wren to field nine ball teams each summer, which won’t happen this year.

It’s a sad turn of events for a tournament that has gotten national exposure and has grown nearly every year, with new activities added each year, including night games, a hall of fame, and other events.

The tournament has garnered lots of attention over the years, including being mentioned in Readers’ Digest, being a big reason why Wren was selected as one of “Ohio’s 50 best small villages”, and being the subject of a documentary that aired on Bowling Green PBS station WBGU-TV.

Davis, while being philosophical about this year’s cancellation, said he now hopes the country can work together to end the Covid-19 pandemic so that both the tournament and Homecoming celebration can be held next year.

That’s a sentiment most people would heartily agree with.

POSTED: 08/01/20 at 7:41 am. FILED UNDER: News