Hard work paying off in Sacred Heart
SACRED HEART -- For any town in Minnesota to host a state tournament, there needs to be a lot of resources at the ready to get the job done. Sacred Heart, a town of under 600 people, handles its duties of hosting the state Division II American Le...
SACRED HEART -- For any town in Minnesota to host a state tournament, there needs to be a lot of resources at the ready to get the job done.
Sacred Heart, a town of under 600 people, handles its duties of hosting the state Division II American Legion Baseball Tournament very seriously and with a lot of volunteer work.
The tournament action starts Friday at 9:30 a.m., but the preparations have been years in the making.
"We organized about 10 years ago so we could host a tournament and fundraise," said Mark Erickson, tournament director. "We knew we had to have more cash coming in to do the field improvements."
Sacred Heart will be the first town under 1,000 people to host the Division II tournament. Ada, which has about 1,600 people, held the yearly event in 1988 and Truman, with about 2,000 people, did the same in 2000.
The base of volunteers extends across the Renville County West school district. The RCW Baseball Association and the Sacred Heart American Legion were responsible for bringing the tournament to Sacred Heart.
"The community has really been behind it. We've had people who have wanted to work, donate cash and donate material. The donations have been awesome," Erickson said.
The scoreboard in right-center field was erected about 10 years ago. This year, to conform with state standards, the outfield fences had to be adjusted.
"We went up to make it further away to meet state guidelines and we put a batter's eye back there," said Steve Agre, coach of the Sacred Heart Legion team. "There have also been a number of landscape projects around and in the ball park. We're fortunate enough that money we spent all went to the project. It's all volunteer work."
The center-field fence, which was only eight feet tall, is now double after the project. All of the fenceline is covered in ivy, Wrigley Field-style.
A press box atop the first-base dugout was expanded, with plenty of space for media, workers and storage.
With the field in top shape, the local baseball association had to provide accommodations for seven baseball teams, officials and umpires. That's where getting area support for the tournament came in.
Prairie's Edge Casino and Resort, south of Granite Falls and only about 11 miles away, will host the teams and today's banquet.
"We wanted to hold everything in a central location. It's more comfortable there," Erickson said.
A little history
n The Division II state tournament began in 1987 and was held in Barnesville. Willmar has held the most D-II events with five: 1992, 1996, 2001-02, 2006.
n The tournament format changed in 1995 to the current eight-team format, with seven districts sending champions and the host town fielding a team. Should the tournament host win its district, the second-place team also advances.
n Since the format change in 1995, Nashwauk-Keewatin has the most tournament appearances with 10. Ely, an entrant this year, has eight.
n Jordan has won the last three titles and will play the tournament's first game Friday against Pipestone.