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Having a Ball: Hayfield brings the community together with wiffle ball

HAYFIELD — For all they cared, Rylan Nelson and Brady Dick may have just won the world series.

The two Hayfield youths sported a hot dog mascot on their shirts as they played for the Grizzly Gladiators and went through the youth circuit to win the junior title at the 18th Annual Hayfield Wiffle Ball Tournament in Hayfield Saturday.

The Gladiators played with and against their friends throughout the day and when they were finished, they went over to watch the high school players and adults battle it off in the senior division to watch their role models put on a  display of wind-aided-homers, leaping catches and all-round good fun.

While the only rewards for the winners were t-shirts and bragging rights, Nelson was pretty pumped about the Gladiators’ victory.

“We get competitive with each other. I can’t even say what it means to win it,” Nelson said.

Baseball was grounded out in Minnesota last spring and the summer only saw limited action for youth and high school players, but a day of wiffle ball had Dick thinking about getting back on the diamond again.

“I’ve been thinking about the wiffle ball tournament for weeks and weeks,” Dick said. “It’s kind of like baseball.  Baseball is the best sport. I can’t wait to get back to it.”

Baseball has especially grown in Hayfield in recent years as the Vikings earned their first ever state berth in the spring of 2019. Hayfield would’ve been a contender again in 2020 had the season not been called off.

Hayfield head baseball and girls basketball coach Kasey Krekling was one of the founders of the Wiffle Ball Tournament and he had some of his Viking baseball and basketball players competing on Saturday. Krekling’s team,  which featured recent Hayfield grads, ended up winning the title over a team that featured current Hayfield students. The win was properly celebrated, but Krekling was more excited about the camaraderie on the field and the funds that were raised to fight lymphoma cancer.

The wiffle ball tournament is usually held during the Hay Days Celebration in the summer, but it was moved to the fall  this year due to COVID-19.

“We didn’t feel right doing it at that time with everything being canceled, so we moved it to a later date and it worked out,” Krekling said. “It was a beautiful day for wiffle ball. It’s good to see everybody, everybody’s having a good time and we’re raising money for a good cause. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Krekling said the tournament made the week at school a little bit more interesting.

“There was some fun banter in the hallways this week between me and some of the kids,” he said. “No one takes it too seriously and it’s not about who wins. It’s about having fun. “

Hayfield grad Mat Walters once played baseball for Krekling in high school and he began playing in the annual wiffle ball tournament when he was in elementary school. He was on Krekling’s winning team on Saturday, and he enjoyed every bit of it.

“I wanted to beat them more than I’d like to admit,” Walters said. “You get down in the game, you kind of want to come back and win. When I was in their shoes and I was younger, we really wanted to win.”

The tournament had players as young as eight and as old as their 30s. In year’s past, it has players as old as 50.

The tournament drew players of all ages. Photo provided