The extra-large Blaine Baseball Complex is located next to Paul Parkway, and that’s 11 miles north of Interstate Hwy. 694. That put Blaine’s town team, the Fusion, outside of the 494-694 corridor that was long ago established as the boundary to separate Twin Cities teams into Class A.
The state amateur baseball board figured by giving the “A’’ designation to these metro teams, they might not complain about being excluded from the wonderful hokeyness of the three-weekend event that takes place in a couple of smaller owns with grand ballparks in late summer:
The Minnesota State Amateur Tournament, featuring 48 Class C teams, and including 16 Class B teams.
Being outside the corridor of the interstates that surround the Twin Cities put Blaine in Class B when Jamie Heipel started the Fusion in 2005. And there it remains, in the Metro Minny, with other good-sized locales located beyond the circle of freeways.
“The last 10 years we’ve played 60-some games,’’ Heipel said. “We keep a good-sized roster. So, if we’ve had a busy week and have finished a gme on Saturday, I’ll say, ‘OK, we’re going to Dundas tomorrow. Who’s in?’ You only need 15 players for a game, and we always have enough.’’
Heipel’s team has traveled around the region by design while playing those 60-some games. Now, it’s being done by necessity, because it’s the only way Minnesota amateur teams can play games.
There was hope that Gov. Tim Walz finally was going to give the go-ahead to play in-state baseball games at Wednesday’s briefing, but that possibility was dismissed in breezy fashion. Walz's off-hand disregard for resuming ballgames has started me thinking the rest of the kids always sent him to right field as a 10-year-old.
It sounds as if Walz now has July 1 stuck in his head for allowing amateur and youth teams to play ballgames within our borders. This despite the reality of a place such as Redwood County, which has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, all recovered, and yet both the Milroy Yankees and the Milroy Irish have to go to South Dakota to play a ballgame.
There has been speculation that some rural town teams are ready to go “rogue’’ and start playing, but one issue is the umpires. The Northwest Umpires have stated they wiill not start working without full approval from the state.
So, it’s on the road to Wisconsin, Iowa or the Dakotas again this weekend for an increasing number of Minnesota teams.
Blaine was able to get the season started with two games against Moorhead’s teams in Fargo’s Jack Williams Stadium on May 30. The Fusion thumped the Mudcats, the lesser of those teams, and then lost to the Brewers, a Class B powerhouse (as is Blaine).
Heipel didn’t schedule a game last weekend, but this weekend the Fusion will be in Larrimore, N.D. for three games – two against East Grand Forks on Saturday and one against Valley City on Sunday.
Now that it appears Walz won’t let baseball games get started next week, either, Heipel could be taking the Fusion south to Bancroft, Iowa, with its treasure of a ballpark.
“They’ve been on me, saying, ‘Come on, it’s only a couple of hours, let’s play,’ ‘’ Heipel said. “'We have good ballplayers that want games. We might have to head south.''