NEW CARLISLE - While the Newts' home, Migley Field, is the most well-known ballpark in New Carlisle, The Palace of Bourissa Hills is arguably the most important.
Now home to the Wildcards, the park at the corner of Ada and Meridian Streets was the birthplace of the modern-day New Carlisle wiffle operation, which includes The Wiffle®Ball Championship and Old Republic Wiffle®Ball League (ORWBL).
Built in the late 1990's as part of the overhaul of the New Prairie Little League complex, The Palace's primary function was for the Little League's Tee Ball division. However, kids growing up in town quickly found its dimensions perfect for wiffleball.
For several years, doubleheaders were a daily occurrence over summer vacation. Current ORWBL players Garrett Curless, Koby Keck, Kevin May, and Sean Touhey were among the group that would play by varying sets of rules depending on the number of players available on a given day.
In the early days, the bat and game balls were heavily taped to encourage home runs. As dingers constantly flew out on to the surrounding streets, Curless likened the park to a mini-Wrigley Field and dubbed it "Migley." Although the name didn't catch on, it served as the inspiration for the present-day Migley Field located just on the other side of Olive Township Elementary.
As wiffleball became ingrained into the summer routine of a generation of New Carlisle kids, it was obvious activity to include in the planning of the inaugural Hometown Days festival in 2005. The tournament, which has grown into one of the largest wiffle events in the country, spurred the realization of the Migley Field idea in 2006 and the creation of ORWBL in 2007.
From its founding, one of the core aspects of ORWBL was the concept of each team playing at its own home field. With its deep wiffle roots, the Tee Ball field was quickly claimed by Marc Lindsey and the Banana Slugs as their ballpark. Due to its proximity to Bourissa Hills Park, Lindsey called it The Palace of Bourissa Hills, in a nod to the home of the Detroit Pistons at the time.
The Banana Slugs only played one year at The Palace, temporarily folding after the league's failed inaugural season, and Lindsey would leave to join the Newts.
Jared Emmons wasted no time claiming the field for the Pterodactyls beginning in 2008. The 'Dactyls played the opening season in the neighboring Polish Grounds, the Little League's instructional field, which at 140 feet to all fields was far too spacious for wiffleball.
As the Newts held the banner for the National League at Migley Field, the 'Dactyls home became New Carlisle's American League park under Emmons. The Newts and Pterodactyls played home-and-home annually from 2008 through 2014.
Early on, the rivalry was nearly dead even as a battle of "big three's" with Curless, Keck, and Lindsey facing off against Emmons, Denis Jedrysek, and Jordan Smoroske. The Newts won eight of the first 15 meetings before the teams collided in the 2009 ORWBL World Series. After splitting the season series, 3-3, the Pterodactyls turned it on in the postseason, sweeping the Newts easily.
The World Series represented the first turning point of the rivalry, as the Pterodactyls won 10 of the next 12 games between the two teams. Following the 2011 season, with Smoroske retiring from wiffleball to serve in the military, Emmons turned over ownership of the franchise. Emmons and Jedrysek came to the Newts, while Dewey Gorny took over the team for 2012.
Gorny's tenure was short-lived, and he was soon replaced mid-season by Nick Dobkins. The power dynamic in the crosstown rivalry completely shifted. By the time Zach Rehlander took the helm of the 'Dactyls, the Newts were in the middle of a 21-game winning streak in the series. Rehlander was in full sell mode, trading Noah Shail to the Newts for a case of Busch Light.
New Carlisle eliminated Bourissa Hills in the postseason in both 2014 and 2015.
Unfortunately for New Carlisle wiffleball fans, the annual crosstown series fell off the schedule in 2017 and hasn't been a high priority for the league office for interleague play.
The franchises revived their series in 2020, the first meeting since Rehlander rebranded the team to the Wildcards. True to their name, the Cards unexpectedly swept the Newts in a three-game set at Migley Field, ultimately costing New Carlisle a division title.
Sunday's series will be the Newts first scheduled trip to The Palace since 2015. New Carlisle did sweep the Sage Road Sinners at the ballpark in 2019 after the Sinners park flooded. Including the Sage Road series, New Carlisle has won 14 straight games at The Palace dating back to the 2013.
Obviously, with all its history, The Palace is a special place for the New Carlisle natives on the Newts roster. It is also a historic site for Scott and Matt Soos. On July 21, 2013, the Cult West Warriors set the record for most runs scored in a single ORWBL game. After scoring 34 in the first inning alone, the Warriors put up 61 runs in a rout of the Pterodactyls.
First pitch on Sunday is set for 1pm ET.