In 2017, the Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament was selected to be included in the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame, which was celebrated by not only those involved in the tournament, but also by residents of Fillmore County and those living far beyond southeast Minnesota.
Everett Johnson, longtime director for the Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, was invited to the 30th Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame Banquet to represent the City of Whalan and the tournament.
The Hall of Fame Banquet was held on Friday, November 2, 2018, at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, Minn., with a large crowd in attendance.
Johnson was accompanied to the banquet by his brother Ernie who was happy to go along to support his brother and acknowledge the hard work that has been put into the tournament by many people over the years.
The Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, which was started by Gene Johnson, took place for the first time in 1970. It quickly became a summer event that many local residents planned for each year and softball teams from near and far would put on their schedules.
Johnson became involved in the tournament after getting out of the service, helping to build the softball field before the first tournament and continued to get more and more involved as time went on.
“There have been 43 tournaments and I have helped with every one of them,” states Johnson. Johnson is quick to point out that he does not do it all by himself, as he says, “There is a long list of people that have been involved and helped over the years,” offering their assistance with the many things that need to be done in conjunction with the tournament.
The induction ceremonies were very special, as not only was Johnson presented with a plaque recognizing the tournament as a member of the Minnesota Hall of Fame, but he also received a special recognition certificate stating, “With tonight’s recognition, the Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament is the first tournament to be recognized by the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame,” which puts the tournament in a league of its own.
“The town of Whalan, Minn., had a population of just 63 people, according to the 2010 census. Being the epitome of a small town, the impact Whalan has had on Minnesota softball has been anything but,” reads the certificate.
During the induction ceremonies Johnson went on stage to accept the plaque and the certificate and gave a short speech. “I thanked all the people in Whalan and all the people involved in the tournament because they are the ones that help keep the tournament going,” notes Johnson.
“It was fun,” says Johnson, explaining that everyone in attendance was treated to a big lunch that was very good. He even came home with a Hall of Fame hat that he wears proudly to represent Whalan and the tournament.
“The Hall of Fame biennially recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of softball,” says the website of the Minnesota Sports Federation, msf1.org, but on this occasion they made an exception by inducting the Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, which has never been done before.
“Softball is the largest team participant sport in Minnesota and the nation, with over 5,000 teams participating in the local program,” explains the website.
“While softball participation has dwindled in recent years, the Whalan Church Tournament continued to be one of the most beloved tournaments in Southeastern Minnesota,” states the special recognition certificate presented to Johnson.
The tournament was nominated by Davis Gilbertson, chairman of the Minnesota Sports Federation softball board and Perry Counce, who is also on the board. They felt it was time for the tournament to be recognized and also for Johnson to be recognized for his dedication to the tournament.
The small town of Whalan, Minn., continues to make a large impact in Fillmore County and the entire State of Minnesota. Congratulations to the Whalan Lutheran Church Men’s Fastpitch Tournament, to Everett Johnson, everyone involved in the tournament and the City of Whalan!