Two Super Bowls and now a third NCAA Final Four on the way to a dome in downtown Minneapolis. The revelation that Hazeltine National will become the first U.S. golf course to host a second Ryder Cup a decade down the road.
These have been fine promotional efforts by influential people in behalf of Minnesota, but as long shots, none can equal the coup pulled off by Ely’s Matty Stukel, when he convinced the American Legion to bring its 1980 World Series to the small, woodsy mecca on the edge of the Boundary Waters.
There hasn’t been a town so small (roughly 5,000 then) or so remote (four hours to the Twin Cities) before or since to host this national event that has taken place since the late 1920s.
“I was in the ninth grade,’’ Frank Ivancich said. “It was amazing to see Will Clark and Sid Fernandez and John Cangelosi playing on our Ely baseball field.’’
Ivancich is entering his 15th season as Ely High School’s baseball coach and hoping to again see players on the grass of Veterans Memorial Field … oh, maybe early next month.
“We’re still all white up here,’’ he said. “And, the nights are still so cool, any little bit of melting during the day turns to ice.’’
Cool … as in below zero? “Yes, it’s below zero this morning,’’ said Ivancich, from a school office on Wednesday. “Take the weather you’re having in Minneapolis and subtract 10 or 15 degrees. That’s Ely.’’
The Ely Timberwolves have gone to four state tournaments in six years, including the past two. They have 16 key players returning. Ivancich can’t wait to see this club, other than with whiffle balls, tennis balls and rubber baseballs in the Ely gymnasium that has stood since the early 1900s.
“We’re in a tournament in Hinckley on the weekend of April 20,’’ Ivancich said. “We hope to play those games. If we don’t, it’s probably going to be May before we can start playing the teams around here.”
The Twins and Opening Day fans are lamenting Thursday’s forecast high of 38 with snow and rain at Target Field.
“Thirty-eight, a little snow, rain mix,’’ Ivancich said. “We’ll take it any day. Let’s play two.”
Jerry Haugen is in his 42nd season as the baseball coach at St. John’s University. The Johnnies’ last game played was on March 20 — in Tucson.
“We’ve played 16 games, all in Florida or Arizona,’’ Haugen said. “Late springs aren’t new. One of my early years, we were playing Carleton on our old field, it was supposed to get to 40 degrees, so we started the game. Never got above 31, we had rain, hail and snow all within 10 minutes.
“My favorite cold-weather game was a couple of years ago, on our new turf field. We plowed off 5 inches of snow and piled it up behind the dugouts.
“Tom Druk was one of our players, and the family had a golden poodle retriever named Chance at the game. The foul balls would disappear in the snow, and Chance would dash over, dig out the baseballs, and return ’em to the dugout. They were a little slobbery, but we had baseballs.’’
John Anderson is in his 38th year as Gophers baseball coach. The snow and cold has taken care of the first Big Ten series at Siebert Field. Anderson arranged to have this weekend series vs. Penn State moved to Purdue.
“Worst ever? I would have to go back to 1990 at Iowa City,’’ Anderson said. “They had to bring in a pickup truck to load the ice that was being broken up and shoveled off the tarp. They finally got the tarp off and we played two seven-inning games.
“Dan Wilson was catching, with his throwing hand in his back pocket. I asked, ‘What’s that?’ And he said, ‘If I don’t do that, I can’t feel my hand.’ ”
Ryan Lefebvre, a voice of the Kansas City Royals and a former Gopher, also cited the doubleheader at Iowa City as his coldest game as a player.
“I was a kid from California and that was the first day I said, ‘Toto, we’re not in Los Angeles anymore,’ ” he said.
Josh Wetzel is in his 16th season as the voice of the Rochester [N.Y.] Red Wings, the Twins’ Class AAA farm club. That team also will be opening at home against weather odds on Thursday.
“My first game in 2003 … and Rochester’s first as a Twins affiliate,’’ Wetzel said. “It started sleeting, then snowing. Players had ice on their caps. Lew Ford and Michael Restovich were a couple of guys freezing in the outfield.”
Restovich? No problem.
As a kid from our Rochester, Resto was fully aware of Minnesota’s April tradition: sleet, snow and baseball.