Upgrades continue at Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium for the Minnesota amateur baseball tournament in August and September 2010.
A retention wall of decorative keystone block has been build along the stadium's south side. It provides separation from the retention pond. A fence will be erected along the new border.
City parks and streets supervisor Ron Gilbertson explained the fence is stressed by the state baseball board for crowd control. The enclosed area with picnic tables is projected as a staging area for teams and fans. It will also put the brakes on many foul fly balls headed for the pond.
The new wall, counting the sides, is about 240-feet long. The berm is also complete down the right field line, matching the height of the berm in left. The display area in the plaza area has also been enhanced.
"We get tons of compliments from people coming to the field for the first time," said Gilbertson.
At Bird Island, the tournament co-host, work continues on the remodeling at Lions Park. When finished, the area behind the first-base dugout will have a berm and concession area similar to Green Lake Diamond in Spicer.
There's no surprise that there was disgust and hurt in the Rails' dugout when the ruling came down from the amateur baseball board that the Willmar team would not be allowed to participate in postseason play.
Catcher/designated hitter Steve Wetterling thought the punishment was too tough for the infraction.
"It was so disappointing," he said. "You felt cheated out of games. We're just guys who wanted to play baseball. There was no intention to cheat."
It seems like massive penalty for a small oversight.
To review, the Rails' Anthony Stern didn't have an official contract, though he signed one in 2005, and after taking the last two years off from baseball, rejoined the Rails this spring. The Rails were without a manager and Mark Krogstad, who had been playing for the Rails, volunteered to take over. The new player/manager said he had no idea Stern's contract wasn't still in effect.
The Minnesota Baseball Handbook is cut and dry when it comes to contracts. If a contract is not current, the penalty is suspension from postseason play.
Wetterling, 26, is the most veteran Rail, along with Jordan Olson. Wetterling said he will likely play next year up in the Detroit Lakes area, where he has worked since spring.
"We had no idea this was coming," said Rails' first baseman Matt Carlson this week. "We got a phone call (that something was amiss) and we figured we have to forfeit a few wins."
The 2009 team played their final game at home on Friday, getting 10-runned by Sacred Heart. Carlson said 12 or 13 guys showed up and everyone played.
Carlson, who has one semester left at Minnesota State Mankato, plans to return next year, even if he is living elsewhere.
"We want to come back strong and get to the state tournament in our own stadium," he said. "We should be stronger if we get some guys off the Legion team and back from college."
One of the guys it would be nice to have is Jordan Smith, who will going on to St. Cloud State this fall to play baseball. One of his teammates there will be infielder Willmar native Tyler Horning, a former standout for the Rails and Ridgewater College. This summer he played with the Cold Spring Springers, a Class B power and a good bet to play in next summer's state tournament.
High schools in the state open practice on Monday, Aug. 17. The first football games won't be played until the eve of Labor Day Weekend and before the start of classes Sept. 8. The Willmar Cardinals open at Hodapp Field at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, hosting the Bemidji Lumberjacks.
Here are other Cardinal openers: Aug. 27, girls tennis, home vs. Hutchinson and New London-Spicer; girls soccer, home vs. Minnewaska ... Aug. 29, girls swimming, home, invitational ... Aug. 31, cross-country at Moorhead ... Sept. 1, volleyball, home vs. Minnetonka.
Another indication that the world's most popular sport continues to gain traction here is the jump in enrollment at the Cardinal Soccer Camp this week. Jeff Winter, girls varsity coach, said the third-year day camp had 20 kids the first year, 31 and second and 52 this week.
The teaching is done all by a half dozen varsity players with others also helping. The teens design and run the skill stations for the five to 12 year olds.
Winter believes the success last fall of the varsity teams -- both reached section championships and the boys went to state -- hyped interest.
Coach Rob Baumgarn, starting his fourth year at the helm of Ridgewater College football, has called the first formal practice for Aug. 7 (Captains' practice started Tuesday).
"We should be more athletic at every position," said Baumgarn, a Montevideo native, "but we'll miss (running back) Alex McLaughlin and (offensive tackle) Tom Boike."
Wide receiver and defensive end should be strengths. Good competition is expected at quarterback. The secondary, which got drilled in several games, will be improved "by far," said the head coach.
Baumgarn said 12 players from last year's team have gone on to join rosters at NCAA Division II schools. McLaughlin, who rewrote the single-season and single-game rushing records here, is at Old Dominion University.
Ex-Warriors LB Jeff Kalow, FB Jake Wahl and DB Brandon Torry are all listed as juniors on the Southwest Minnesota State University roster.
The Warriors hold a free Red and White Scrimmage at Hodapp Field on Friday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. The season opener comes up Saturday, Aug. 29 against Itasca College at St. Cloud State University.
On the fly
Girls softball remains very popular. There were three under-12 teams in Willmar playing in a 13-team league stretching from Marshall to Paynesville. Two Willmar teams were formed for weekend tournaments. There were also U10, 14, 16 and 18 teams. The WCER summer youth programs in soccer, softball and baseball all wrap up this week.