CLASS C ROUNDUP FRIDAY AT DELANO: Athletics continue to impress on their impressive field

By Ryan Simonson

On the exterior of Delano Municipal Baseball Park’s stone grandstand, a large display board proudly showcases an extensive list. Not a list of championship titles or legendary players, but a list of ballparks. More specifically, on display is the complete list of Bob Greeley’s famous and widely debated Top 100-plus Town Team Baseball Parks in Minnesota, which made its way through social media in 2019 and 2020. 

As you can imagine, the No. 1-ranked ballpark on Greeley’s list is none other than ivy-covered confines of Delano Municipal. And for good reason. Of all the debating and reshuffling of the Greeley list by Twitter commenters, the least bickered-about spot was definitely the No. 1-rated ballpark.  

Municipal Baseball Park’s history dates back as far as the 1890s, with wool-clad Delano base-ball clubs having been organized as far back as 1875. Over the years, teams like the Delano Crickets, Blue Birds, and Millers gave way to the current Delano Athletics club. 

In 1993, the current grandstand was erected with a roof that only partially covered its seating. Significant modifications were made to the park beginning in 2010, when the Delano Athletic Club borrowed $180,000 from the city on a 10-year loan for ballpark renovations. 

In preparation for the 2019 State Tournament, which Delano co-hosted with Maple Lake and Dassel, LED lights were added to Municipal Park and a new roof was added to cover the entire grandstand. Now with its generous grandstand seating, large seating decks down both the first and third baselines, large concession and gathering areas, and fantastic lighting, the Muni emerged as one of the top ballparks in the state, ready to comfortably host immense tournament crowds at the drop of a hat. But they weren’t satisfied.

In 2021, the Delano/Dassel/Litchfield group was selected as the hosts for the historic 100th annual state tournament, and they had already begun the work of improving on their 2019 upgrades. They added a broad concrete walkway down the length of the left field line, creating extensive field-level seating, including rows of rocking chairs and multiple high-top spool tables. A covered media box area was added atop the first base-side “Ditty Deck,” to add square footage for media outlets outside of the limited space beneath the grandstand roof. A new sound system was added, along with an auxiliary scoreboard on the facing of the VIP “DAC Shack” on the third base side of the field, and an expanded “On Deck Circle Plaza.”  

The most popular upgrade to the park is the addition of two outfield boardwalks decks that bookend the thick ivy fence in the left and right field corners, with picnic tables and fence-top bar rails and stools providing a row of seating across the crest of the outfield ivy, extending toward center field from both sides. In total, Delano Municipal field now boasts over 330 bar stools, in addition to their tables, benches, rocking chairs, and grandstand seats, providing ample seating and sight lines for fans, even when Friday night tournament crowds swell to over 1,300, as they did for their Aug. 25 second-round matchup with Spring Hill. 

In their second-round matchup of the 2023 tournament, the Athletics again found themselves entertaining a crowd of over 1,200 in a Friday night home game versus the Elrosa Saints, another opponent from Stearns County’s region 15C. The Saints had advanced to Labor Day weekend with a dramatic win over Hadley and an upset of Region 9C’s top-seeded Minneota Mudhens. 

Elrosa’s Payton VanBeck took the mound against Delano’s Max Otto. 

After a clean opening frame, Elrosa showed some second-inning jitters, yielding an RBI single to Jake Nelson, who was then retired when he was struck by a batted ball while running between second and third. After two more runs scored on a throwing error and a pitch that reached the backstop, Delano’s Trevor Jaunich delivered a two-out single to make it 4-0 A’s. 

Elrosa cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth inning when a two-run homer by Derek Weiner sailed over the left field foliage. 

The score held until the seventh inning. Saints center fielder Kevin Kuefler delivered a strike to home plate after a Delano single, cutting down Adam Schleper, and it seemed Elrosa may escape unscathed, but once again Jaunich delivered an RBI single, extending the Delano lead to 5-2.

The A’s added another run in the eighth on a squeeze bunt by Tanner Kroells, which completed the scoring for the night. Otto closed out the ninth for a complete game, 13-strikeout victory. 

Delano advances to face the winner of Bluffton/Luverne at 11 a.m. Sunday in Delano.

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