Reporting Mike Max
MAPLE LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) – The state amateur baseball tournament is back, this year held in Delano and Maple Lake.
The brackets tell the story of small-town teams that make this their summer pastime. They live for this time of year, which brings together the communities that host it.
Brady Ranweiler, who plays for the New Ulm Brewers, has played in the tournament on more than one occasion.
“I was here in ’97 when the state tournament was here, too. Any time you get a chance to come here, though, you got to play it like it’s your last and try to have some fun,” Ranweiler said.
It’s a three-year project where much of the attention is focused on the field. Steve Eilen of the Brewers says the pride in a natural manicure is what makes Minnesota’s town ball so special.
“The players – you hear it after the game, before the game even…they’re like ‘Wow, this is really a nice place to play,’ and the balls play true on here. So that’s really what it’s all about,” Eilen said.
Red Wychowski is a regular at this annual event, which brings back many memories – like when he chaired the tournament 55 years ago.
“I was chairman of the ’58 tournament after I moved here from New Ulm. We drew 5,000 advanced tickets for the first game and we got rained out,” Wychowski said.
It’s all hands on deck from the towns involved to make this event a success. Volunteers are crucial, from the grounds keeping, announcing and even the kitchen.
It’s a labor of love, and these baseball fans wouldn’t have it any other way.