The New Um Baseball Association voted on Saturday to continue as hosts for the 97th State Amateur Baseball Tournament, scheduled to start on Aug. 20 and concluding on Labor Day (Sept. 7). This decision came during a meeting with the seven board members of the Minnesota Baseball Association in New Ulm.
“We talked with the MBA board for quite a while, heard their updated information on dealing with the limitations we’re facing because of the coronavirus, and then went into our own meeting,’’ said Al Flor, New Ulm’s chairman for the state tournament.
“As a group, we decided for the good of baseball in the state, and in New Ulm, we’re going ahead with a plan to host the tournament.’’
New Ulm would be hosting the state tournament for the first time since 1990. It has two ballparks, historic Johnson Park (1939) and Mueller Field (2001). The third site for games will be 26 miles away in Springfield, which also supports hosting the tournament.
Flor confirmed that the New Ulm board had voted at a meeting last Tuesday to withdraw from hosting the tournament. The concerns were safety, financial and the state of Minnesota’s ongoing attempt to prohibit baseball and other team sports from playing games.
“Two things happened to change our board’s opinion: the governor giving the go-ahead on Friday to start playing ball, and some ideas that we heard today from the MBA board that could assist with costs,’’ Flor said.
The money-makers for the Minnesota towns that host the Class B [16 teams] and Class C [48 teams] tournaments are concessions at the ballpark and the advertising in thick programs that carry photos and rosters of all teams.
“We had to stop selling advertising when everything shut down in March, bars, restaurants and many other businesses we’re closed, and we didn’t know if there was going to be a tournament,’’ Flor said. “We’re without $70- to $80,000 that we expected to have at this time, before the virus and the shutdown.’’
As for concessions, that's correct -- New Ulm IS very high on the list of great Minnesota beer towns, and the current limit of 250 fans for public events certainly would put a crimp in the sale of Schell’s and Miller products during the tournament.
The hope is that the number will be raised considerably by Aug. 20, to take better advantage of the capacities of Johnson Park ([1,600 seating, plus much standing) and Mueller Field (1,000 seating, plus standing).
Partially in anticipation of this state tournament, the city of New Ulm, local baseball associations and boosters have put $2.5 million into improvements into the two ballparks in the past two years.
“And, if you go back to 2015, it’s $3.5 million,’’ Flor said. “Johnson Park always has been great; now, it’s spectacular. And Mueller isn’t far behind.’’
Flor is also the manager of the Brewers, New Ulm’s sole town team these days. The games for all teams will be coming furiously in the weeks ahead, as all ballparks open and Minnesota’s 235 Class B and C teams try to squeeze in legitimate league schedules before the start of the playoffs.
“We’re at Gaylord on Sunday night and I’ve confirmed that we’re going to be facing Brody Rodning,’’ Flor said. “Brody’s home, he’s pitching, and that means we’re only facing the best in the state.’’
The Waterville Indians town team had two players test positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. The two players work at the same location and are said to have contacted the virus there. Waterville will not be allowed to play a game for 14 days.
Additionally, the Jordan Brewers, Waterville’s opponent on Friday night, will not be allowed to play for five days as their players are monitored.