Litchfield launches upgrades at Optimist Park

By Nick Gerhardt

ScoreMonster Contributor

news@mnbaseball.org

When Litchfield landed the 2016 MBA state tournament with Hutchinson and Dassel, Optimist Park started to gain more attention. 

Optimist Park will host the Region 12C tournament this season and the Blues will get to showcase the changes the park has undergone as it prepares to host the 100th anniversary of the MBA state tournament with Delano and Dassel in 2023. 

“Every decision within the last year or two is with tournaments in mind,” Litchfield manager John Anderson said. “We’re setting a bar for everything we’re doing and it’s that state tournament level.”

Hosting a state tournament with ballparks in the caliber of Dassel and Delano will do that. Delano and Dassel are regarded as two of the best parks in the state. 

The biggest difference fans will notice at Optimist Park will be the grandstand. The Litchfield City Council approved the grandstand project in April 2020 and the Litchfield Baseball Association has worked since then to get a covered grandstand in place. The covered grandstand got installed in mid-March and that’s just the beginning of the projects.

The total project was estimated to cost $95,000 with the LBA contributing $20,000 initially and another $30,000 over six years with the city picking up the rest of the costs. Some of those costs have increased as the price for materials has risen and the project’s scope has expanded.

“We’re looking 20, 30, 40 years down the road,” Anderson said. “This is going to be a great thing for the program and Litchfield down the road.”

Optimist Park was built in 1993 and added lights shortly after that. Since then Optimist Park got a new scoreboard and a large batter’s eye. 

Last fall, Optimist Park got dugout renovations and saw some work to the outfield fence as the grandstand project rolled out. The LBA will also take on backstop work this spring. Anderson said May 1 is the target date to have the backstop work completed. The Blues have their home opener slated for May 20 against Watertown. 

The LBA has added additional seats in the grandstand — 48 old Metrodome seats — to go with seats from Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, giving the ballpark a rare distinction of having seats from both teams in the 1991 World Series. 

Systems West in Litchfield has done the construction work, donating between $20,000 to $25,000 in labor and equipment costs.

The park improvements coincide with a renewed interest in amateur baseball in Litchfield. LBA membership has grown in the last several years, LBA member and Litchfield High School baseball head coach Jeff Wollin said. 

“It’s encouraging to see more guys on the field and off the field supporting things,” Wollin said.

Litchfield had a string of five straight state tournament appearances from the late 1990s to the early 2000s and many in the baseball community want the Blues to start appearing in the state tournament again.  

“We’ve had really good baseball teams,” Anderson said. “When I grew up in Litchfield we had really good baseball. When I joined the board a lot of younger people in the community got on board as well.”

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