If his dad would be anywhere, it would be a baseball diamond quite like the one Russell Wrenn coached from Sunday night. Maybe exactly like that one, in fact, that Wrenn stood steps away from in the Camden Yards dugout.
Russell Wrenn used to help his dad as a bat boy for high school all-star games at Memorial Stadium. His dad, Roger Wrenn, coached football and basketball for decades at Patterson and Poly high schools in Baltimore. High school baseball was one of their earliest bonds.
And it was the bond Russell Wrenn, now the athletic director at Gilman, used to pay tribute to his father less than a week after he died at age 75.
Coaching the North team at the 40th annual Brooks Robinson Senior All-Star Game — a new iteration of the one where he’d spent so many years with his father — Russell Wrenn thought back to those days as a bat boy with his dad as his team beat the South team, 3-1, Sunday night.
For on this night generations relayed a family tradition. Russell Wrenn watched his own sons gleefully do the job he used to take such pride in.
“Just incredibly thankful for these guys to be willing to have me stand in his place and to honor dad, and it was neat to be out here and talk to a lot of the coaches he’s known for forever and the umpires,” Russell Wrenn said. “It was really a nice tribute to my father.”
Roger Wrenn was diagnosed with multiple myeloma around the beginning of the pandemic. He was able to see his grandkids play various games in the few years before he passed away.
The late Wrenn was supposed to coach this game — the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches wanted to honor him. But Roger Wrenn finished his last treatment about two weeks before the game and it was clear he wouldn’t be able to. So they asked his son. His father’s name would still be listed on the roster, and he would coach in his honor.
On May 30, about a week after his final treatment, Roger Wrenn died.
“The end came quickly, and selfishly you want more time,” Russell Wrenn said. “The last few days were tough, that’s why it’s so nice that these folks were willing to do this for me.”
The day felt like old times, Russell Wrenn said, getting to celebrate the players that made it there and the season concluding just like his dad always had experienced.
Matt Archibald of John Carroll took the first walk in from the center field bullpen. He’d start for the North team, and he made a point to take it all in — getting his own chance to pitch on a Major League Baseball field.
“I took the walk and looked around and admired it all,” Archibald said. “I was blown away.”
He was nervous for his first pitch in warmups. But once it left his hand, it started to feel like any other game. This one with lower stakes, but one in a place where he’d spent years thinking about playing.
“I’ve always wanted to do this ever since I was a freshman,” Archibald said. “I’ve had teammates and upperclassmen before me. They’ve played and always talked very highly of it.”
Archibald threw two scoreless innings and struck out four on his way to being named his team’s most outstanding pitcher.
Good Counsel’s Liam Houghton was named the North’s most valuable player. His double in the third inning drove in the first two runs of the game and ultimately was the game-winning hit.
Reservoir Ben Davis had a double in the fourth inning, and in the seventh inning scored the South team’s only run of the game on his way to being named his team’s most valuable player. Chesapeake’s Nick Karls, who pitched two scoreless innings, was the South’s most outstanding pitcher, and Mt. Hebron’s Sam Cohen added two scoreless innings for the South team as well.
And Russell Wrenn knows his father was watching it all, assuredly looking down proudly.
“If he’s anywhere, his heaven is going to involve a whole lot of ball fields,” Russell Wrenn said.