Litchfield Independent Review: Amateur tourney arrives in Litch

–by Louie OpatzLitchfield Independent Review

For the first time in its 93-year history, the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament is coming to Litchfield.

Litchfield’s Optimist Park will serve as the tournament’s third site and host at least 12 state tournament games starting Aug. 19, when the Class B and Class C state tournaments begin in Dassel, Hutchinson and Litchfield.

“I think the magnitude of this is probably indescribable,” Litchfield Baseball Association board member Brian Jones said. “This puts us on the map for amateur baseball. I think that, for years to come, we’ll be seeing the effects of it.”

“I’m excited,” said Mike Nagel, a Minnesota Baseball Association state board member and Litchfield native. “Obviously being from Litchfield, it’s awesome that Litchfield gets to be involved in it. The history and tradition that Litchfield amateur baseball has had, I think it’ll be awesome for them to be a part of it.

“Plus, I can hang out at my mom’s when the games are done, so that’s an added bonus,” he added with a laugh.

The three-weekend tournament, which culminates with the final four-day Labor Day weekend, was hosted by Watkins, Cold Spring and St. Cloud last season and brought 13,900 paying customers to the host cities.

“We’ll have teams coming in from all over, and they’ll get a chance to see our field and facilities,” Litchfield Baseball Association president Mike Thompson said. “… For the community, we’re hoping that people come in and spend some money at the local businesses.”

Not a ‘red-headed step child’

The tournament format has changed this year, and that format will directly benefit Litchfield: last season, the third site served as a backup option in case of inclement weather — last year’s third site, St. Cloud, ultimately did not host any state tournament games.

For 2016, the state board has decided to incorporate the third site more fully into the tournament to make it a true host site: Litchfield is guaranteed at least 12 state tournament games, a number that could increase if rain washes out games in Dassel or Hutchinson.

Come August, Optimist Park will be a bona fide host site, not a Plan B.

“We’re not the red-headed step child,” Jones said. “It’s three locations: on the advertisement, everywhere, it’s Hutchinson, Dassel and Litchfield.”

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