Multiple games decided by one run, walk-off hits and shutouts, plus an extra-inning pitchers’ duel for the title. Three local teams making a deep run into the Class C tournament, including Waconia’s own Lakers, Young America and Watertown. A crowd of more than 20,000 fans watching three weekends of baseball.
Those were among the highlights of this year’s Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, WCH2021, hosted by Waconia, Chaska and Hamburg.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, said Chris Ohm, Waconia Baseball Association president, and by all accounts the 2021 tournament was a beauty. After pouring several inches of rain on the field the first two weekends, weather the final weekend turned out to be a thing of beauty too.
Ohm called the groundskeeping and other volunteer support “phenomenal,” noting that tournament organizers “couldn’t have pulled it off without them.”
“Everybody who volunteered owned their role in the tournament,” he said,
Ohm also noted that nearly every team in the tournament brought fans.
The 2021 amateur baseball state tournament eclipsed the 20,000-fan mark for the first time since 1959 in an era before televised sports and major league baseball in Minnesota. The entire tournament drew 21,013 fans through three weekends.
“All three sites were dealt some tough weather the first two weekend, but they were rewarded with outstanding weather for the last weekend, and the fans came out in droves setting a modern-day attendance record,” said Gary Schleper, Minnesota Baseball Association board member. “The attention to detail at the three sites was top notch, and more importantly, the friendly volunteers made the whole experience over the top.”
Team participants and fans also had good things to say.
“Awesome tournament, well organized, hard-working, extremely friendly and top notch in every regard,” were among the comments coming to tournament organizers over Twitter.
Other highlights from this year’s tournament Ohm mentioned were post-game player of the game interviews never done before, a full line-up of ceremonial first pitches and national anthem performers, a strong social media presence, and the biggest printed program ever, highlighting players, sponsors, tournament facts and special features.
The 2021 tournament also drew the attention of Twin Cities media and culminated with “Town Ball Night” last Saturday at Target Field where all three state championship teams were celebrated prior to the Twins game against Kansas City.
Next year, Faribault, Dundas and Miesville will host the state amateur tournament. In 2023, it’s Delano, Dassel and Litchfield.
Farther down the road, nine bids already have been received by the governing Minnesota Baseball Association board for the 2024-2025 state tournaments, representing some 27 communities, including Jordan, Belle Plaine, Green Isle, Shakopee, Hutchinson, Brownton, and Gaylord to name a few in the region.
Ohm said the number of bidders shows the strength of town ball and he hopes the success of this year’s WCH tournament may have contributed in some way to the number of communities interested in hosting the tournament.
Local tournament organizers will take a break now after a busy tournament season, but Ohm indicates that the local baseball association remains interested in continuing to host major tournaments.
So maybe another state amateur tournament bid for 2026?