Amateur Baseball: Back on the Rails
Wade Adamson and Dustin Overcash are trying to make Willmar great again.
The Willmar Rails, that is.
In light of an extended recent string of struggles on the field, Adamson and Overcash have taken control of the Rails this off-season, looking to get Willmar amateur baseball back on track.
"I'm a high goal-setter," Adamson said. "I'd like to get the Rails back to where Willmar baseball was in the '70s and '80s. This was a hotbed for baseball."
As of now, however, the Rails are a ways away from that goal after consistently struggling in the Cornbelt League.
"I think the first thing we'd like to do is just play a lot more close games and get the first few wins on the board," Overcash said.
The first step in gearing up for the season will take place this Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Manz Auto in Willmar as Adamson and Overcash will host a meeting for anyone interested in getting involved with the Rails.
"If you're a player, or if you know someone that might want to play, a parent, a spouse a local business that would like to get involved—you're invited to come on out," Overcash said.
Adamson and Overcash had seen the Rails' gradual demise over recent seasons, but the tipping point came during the regional tournament last season. A day after losing their first playoff game, the Rails did not show for a loser's bracket contest.
"At that point I kind of just contacted Wade and said that we have to do something about the Rails," Overcash said. "Being from Willmar and being around baseball, it was tough to watch."
Willmar was facing severe consequences from the state when the pair took over the reins, including the possibility of having the team shut down.
"I went to region and state meetings and just had to assure them that nothing like that was going to happen again with the Rails," Overcash said.
Willmar was placed on a one-year probation and is unable to play in the state tournament—even though the Rails themselves don't expect to go from the cellar to that point in one season.
"I'd like to be back there in the not-too-distant future, though," Adamson said.
The keys to getting the Rails back on track, Adamson and Overcash say, are twofold: players and finances.
They believe that locating the talent won't be the hard part; rather, getting the players to stay in Willmar will be.
"You look around at the players that have just come through (in Willmar) and younger ranks, and the ability is as high as it's been in a long time," Adamson said. "It's just that for a while now, you've seen that a lot of the players want to go to Raymond or they want to go to Atwater or they want to go to New London."
Much like a newly-hired college football coach, the Rails' braintrust looks to place an emphasis on keeping the best players from Willmar in Willmar.
"I think that if you rounded up all the players from town that could play for the Rails, then you'd instantly have a really, really good team," Adamson said.
What happened so that the town's best players have wound up elsewhere?
"For a bit of time now, maybe to a lot of people playing for another town that was likely to win more games was more appealing than playing for the Rails," Overcash said. "We'd like to change that."
The second part of the competition equation involves money.
Like it or not, Overcash says, part of a successful amateur team is having the requisite finances for equipment, umpire fees and other curveballs that get thrown into the mixture.
Right now, the Rails' checking account sits in double figures.
"What we're looking for is 10 or so local companies that care about getting Willmar baseball back to what it can be to help us out," Overcash said. "When you have the local business support, that also usually means you have the community as a whole more interested, which can make your team better."
Teams also receive revenue from postseason tournaments, so the longer a team plays, the more it helps in the pocketbooks.
"The more you win, the more it's going to help your team in the long run in that regard," Adamson said.