By Kristin Rulon

The saying goes that you should have at least three hobbies in your life: One to make money, one to keep you in shape and one to be creative. For the 180 teams that attended the 9th Annual Boo N’ Brew Softball Tournament, two out of three (shape and creativity) were covered.

Teams from across the Midwest came to the Mid America Sports Complex the weekend of Oct. 19-21, with some wearing comical costumes and flair — all clearly in shape (despite the last minute add-ins to the roster due to minor injuries) and able withstand the intensity of playing around-the-clock ball.

This year’s Boo N’ Brew was even more interesting because it told a story of redemption not just for Kelly “KO” O’Bryan-McLemore (the brain behind the Boo N’ Brew’s success and USSSA/GSL slowpitch state director for Kansas and Missouri) but for the winners of the Men’s D Division as well.

Kelly’s growingly popular tournament was almost a wash — literally — last year when it rained for hours on end.

“It was complete chaos,” O’Bryan-McLemore said. “Trying to find new fields to play at, everyone wondering what they are doing, wondering if the rain is every going to stop. We even had to cancel some divisions,” O’Bryan-McLemore shared. “I feel like if I can survive that, then I can pretty much survive anything.”

Still, with O’Bryan-McLemore’s goal was to have 200 teams in this year’s tournament. She admitted she was nervous that last year’s weather would deter teams from re-entering this year’s tournament, but she was hopeful and grateful, extending the deadline for those last minute teams.

“At the deadline we only had 100 teams signed up but I decided to extend it out, after I did that, more and more teams signed up. We didn’t hit 200 but we were close and I am grateful for that,” she said.

Still 180 teams is an impressive number and due the tournament’s size and the fact that the tournament has to be wrapped up by Sunday, some of the games took place at another location — Frank White Sports Complex in Lee’s Summit, Mo.

O’Bryan-McLemore is optimistic that next year’s tournament, the Boo N’ Brew’s 10th Annual, will hit 200 teams. O’Bryan-McLemore is well-known throughout the softball community. She greets her friends, players in the tournament, with a warm smile, a hug and an infectious laugh. These are her people and the field is her home — even referring to the Mid-America Sports Complex as her home. O’Bryan-McLemore shared to her love of the game was instilled in her at an early age by her father. And it’s a love that has stood the test of time, even now as she orchestrates softball tournaments all throughout the year, including the increasingly popular Shamrock Slam in March. She’s even cranking out two other tournaments this year in November, the 10th Haybale Draft Tournament on Nov. 3, and the Turkey Tourney, Nov. 10 & 11, with winning players on each team scoring themselves each a turkey, just in time for the holidays.

O’Bryan-McLemore’s team consists of Ed Scarry, Dakota Higgins, Tonia Turner (TT), Greg “Caddy” Anderson, her father Sach O’Bryan and her husband Jason McLemore. There may be only a handful of them but they pull off O’Bryan-McLemore’s tournaments almost effortlessly … at least from the perspective of an outsider looking in. They are dedicated to the overall process it takes to put a tournament together of this magnitude.

O’Bryan-McLemore spent the weekend sleeping in the complex’s office. Others slept in a RV her team rented for the weekend, taking shifts to sleep. Some of the ball teams even slept at the field in tents and campers, O’Bryan-McLemore noted. Saturday night was the busiest night at the field as food vendors lined up to cater the packed park.

“There were so many people here; you couldn’t find anywhere to park.” O’Bryan-McLemore said. “This place was packed and there were some fun costumes.”

Her favorite costumes were women dressed up as characters from the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”

O’Bryan-McLemore hasn’t played for more than five years but that doesn’t change how she feels when she brings those who love the sport as much as her to the field. It’s a reunion of sorts for the seasoned teams and players albeit it’s met with a fair amount of competiveness. Sportsmanship eventually takes over off the field, even for those disappointed by the final score.

Some teams are just grateful to make it to the finals. The Tribe, the first place winners of the Men’s D Division, lost their first game in the tournament — a sign that their time in the tournament could be short-lived.

Men’s D Champs, The Tribe

But after that first lost, the Tribe focused on one game at time, redeeming themselves with each win and eventually taking home the title after 12 long games.

“After that first game, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Tribe Coach Brian Kalebaugh. “After we won the second and third games, we were getting excited but we didn’t want to get into our heads too much – there was still a lot of ball to play to get to the championships. We played 12 games total and in a way, this win was about redemption for us in the tournament and for us as a team.”

The Tribe knocked their final game out of the park with a 20-6 win against the Southside Sunflowers, earning them second place. Three teams had a higher difference in runs by the end — the Mixed C Division Champs Kyptonite’s defeated the Homewreckers 31-14 with a 17-run difference; Women’s B first-place winners BNS/Smash It Sports won 20-4 against Good Platoon with a 16-run gap; and Mixed B Division Champs The Egg & 1 scored 15 more runs than second place winners Good Platoon with a final score of 30-15.

Men’s Open Champions, Smash It Sports/BNS/Easton

Those with single digit run differences included the Men’s C Division finalist D & R Home Improvements/MW Unwanted vs. MOGA. D& R Home Improvements/MW Wanted took home the first place title with a final score of 16-6. Roc Nation and The Leghounds went head-to-head in the Men’s E Division with Roc Nation taking home first — final score 13-6. Women’s E Champs T&A won the title with a 5-run lead against the Kansas City Crowns, 13-8.

Men’s C Champs, D&R Home Improvements/MW Unwanted

While the run gap was evident in some of the championship games, others were nail biters. The KC Ballers took home the Mixed E Championship title by three runs, defeating the OG Package 5-2. The Men’s Open Champs Smash It Sports/BNS/Easton won by only two runs against the B&B Drywall/Monarchs/HighValley/Egg & I with a final score of 29-27. The closest game came down between the Riot/American Psychos vs. KC Chai in the Mixed D’s final. The Riot/American Psychos won 13-12, ensuing anxiety for spectators and ball players alike.

First place teams of each division received a Boo N’ Brew hooded sweatshirt and championship ring, second place teams earned Boo N’ Brew t-shirts and third place teams took home Boo N’ Brew beanies.

There’s no cash prize in the tournament, which makes the win all much sweeter, as it’s played for the camaraderie and passion of the game.

“This is my passion,” O’Bryan-McLemore said. “Even though it’s a lot of hard work and I couldn’t do it without my team, which is just the seven of us, I love it.”