For 24 years, his name was well-known, but only among certain baseball circles.
Then, The Force awoke.
“My name is cool now, I guess,” Sky Sox left fielder Kyle Wren said.
The longtime fan was thrilled to find out that the latest installment in the multibillion-dollar Star Wars franchise, 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” would feature a villain just two letters off from his own name: Kylo Ren.
According to Wren, when the Sky Sox played the Salt Lake Bees, Star Wars music would ring out when he came up to bat and if he struck out, the scene where Kylo Ren destroys part of his own ship with his light saber in anger would play.
“I get it almost everywhere,” Wren, a twin brother, said. “Fans yelling at me, ‘I can’t believe you killed Han Solo!’”
He’s been with the Sky Sox parts of three seasons, and has achieved a level of comfort in Colorado Springs that has helped him this season. He relates not to Kylo Ren, but to the scoundrel with a heart of gold, Han Solo. He even has a trusty sidekick.
“My Chewbacca would be Nate Orf, my roommate on the road. He follows me around,” Wren said. “He can speak English, though, not Wookie.”
Wren and Orf are looking to shoot first for the Sky Sox, who return to Colorado Springs Friday tied 1-1 for their first playoff homestand in 20 years in the series against the Memphis Redbirds.
Kyle’s father, Frank Wren, played in the Montreal Expos system and then began a successful front-office career. He became the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles for one season in 1998, then worked for the Atlanta Braves for 15 years, serving as executive vice president and general manager from 2007 to 2014.
Meanwhile, Kyle and his twin brother, Colby, were getting involved in the family business. They played together at Georgia Tech.
“With that name, there was obviously pressure on our backs, especially in the area,” Kyle said. “It made us better players and people.”
Frank Wren drafted MLB All-Stars Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, and two of his own sons. The Braves took Kyle in the eighth round of the 2013 draft.
“Then my dad drafted me, so there was even an added pressure there because I wanted to make sure it looked like my dad made the right decision,” Kyle said.
After solid stints with the Braves’ Single- and Double-A affiliates, Wren was traded to the Brewers about a month after his father was fired by the Braves. Frank now works in the Boston Red Sox front office, and that team drafted Kyle’s younger brother, Jordan, out of Georgia Southern in 2017.
After the trade, Kyle Wren started with the Biloxi Shuckers (AA) and joined the Sky Sox in 2015. In Colorado Springs, he’s scored 167 runs for an average of .290 with 117 RBIs.
He’s batting .286 this season and was named July co-player of the month (.340 average, 34 hits, 21 runs scored) helping the Sky Sox to the second-best record in the Pacific Coast League at 80-57 and an American North Division championship.
“Kyle has grown as a hitter, not just in the game, but how to prepare himself day in and day out,” Sky Sox coach Al LeBoeuf said. “I think it’s been outstanding.”
Wren said he likes Han Solo because he manages to be the coolest character even though he doesn’t wield a light saber. Wren, as well, has had to find other, meaningful ways to contribute in his career.
Wren leads the team and is tied for first in the PCL with 26 stolen bases.
“I was never going to be the guy that hits the ball out of the park consistently,” Wren said. “My dad, being who he is, he basically told me to get to the big leagues, you’re going to have to use your speed. It’s going to have to change the game enough that people will notice it.”
The goal is to make the Memphis Redbirds notice in the PCL semifinals Friday at Security Service Field. Game 4, and 5 if necessary, will take place Saturday and Sunday at home.
From there, who knows which star system Wren will wind up in. LeBoeuf said Wren’s famous name – in several ways – may have done him some favors, but Kyle has taken it from there.
“When it’s all said and done, it’s what he does,” LeBoeuf said. “He’s put himself in a great spot in this organization. All we ask for in this game is an opportunity. Hopefully he gets that opportunity because we’re all pulling for him.”
Wren, meanwhile, is pulling for the fictional villain who now routinely affects his real life.
“We don’t know he’s evil,” Wren said. “He could be on a redemptive arc, so I will hold judgment until the final movie. His story is not fully written yet.”
Neither is Wren’s.