Old School: More than a baseball tournament
At any sporting event, there is always more going on than what is happening on the field, court or diamond.
While I appreciate attending sporting events and watching the athletes compete, what is just as fun for me is taking in the everything else that is happening around me.
Yes, I know there are people who solely focus on the sporting event. They are the ones with their own books keeping track of every statistic as it happens.
There are others who are there simply because someone they love is playing. While they are happy if the team they are cheering for wins, that pales in comparison to seeing the individual success of the person they have come to see.
I went to the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Class C tournament this past Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 5-6).
The games were held in Milroy, and, to be honest, the real reason I went was the fact that I had been told by Dorothy Marquardt about an interesting story involving one of the players and his connection to the history of baseball in the area.
I really enjoyed talking with Luke Weber about his grandpa, Rich Kramer. I had the chance to interact with Rich in different settings over the years, but, I never talked with him about baseball. So, it was interesting to learn about a different side of a man I came to truly respect.
Yet, the conversation I had with Luke was not the only one I had during the hours I spent “watching” the games.
I met a guy named Ken Rein whose son also played on the Prior Lake Mudcats team, and we carried on a conversation about a number of things.
Yes, even to my own surprise, I actually was able to carry on a conversation with someone that lasted longer than a few minutes and focused on topics beyond sports and how nice the weather was.
Being a few years older than I am, Mr. Rein talked about his baseball experience, adding he still plays on an over 50 team. I am inspired by that, but not enough to actually don my glove and sign up to play church league softball again.
During the tournament I also learned where communities like Bluffton, Union Hill and St. Patrick are, as well as how committed some people are to their team. For many, a three-hour trip one way is no big deal.
After all, their team is in the state tournament. (By the way, those really are communities in Minnesota, and I encourage you to find them on a map for yourself.)
I loved so many of the team names, like the Mudcats, Muskies and the Bullfrogs.
I was secretly cheering for Bird Island and watched them play Sunday. The main reason for that is two of its players, Colten Minkel and Logan Swann, are Redwood Valley grads.
I did start to wonder if I might have been bad luck for the Mudcats and the Bullfrogs, as it was when I was there that both teams were eliminated from the state tournament.
Naturally, I also watched the people of the Milroy community who worked tirelessly throughout the tournament keeping the field in good condition, offering concessions and just making sure that people were having an enjoyable experience in southwest Minnesota.
I would say they did an excellent job.
I did not watch every play of every game when I was there, but I did see plenty of good plays on the field.
Unfortunately, as the guy who typically does not cover sports, I missed capturing most of those plays as I watched them with awe.
I saw someone steal home for the first time in my life, and I watched diving stops and massive home run shots. I watched dominating pitching performances, and observed plenty of examples of good sportsmanship.
Many of the conversations with others centered around the impact of COVID-19 and the fact that they were all happy that a season happened in the first place and that the state tournament was held at all.
I probably won’t watch the state tournament next year, unless of course my favorite baseball team (the Milroy Irish) are playing.
However, if the tournament is being played three hours away from my home that won’t happen.
If I really feel the need to talk with people I think I can find something a little closer.