Litchfield Baseball Association board members realized a long-time goal Saturday as the hosts for the 2023 Minnesota Baseball Association state tournament were announced.
Litchfield joined Dassel and Delano as co-hosts for what will be the 100th anniversary state tournament, which organizers expect will generate significant statewide interest.
“Ecstatic,” association President Brian Jones said of his reaction to the announcement. “That was a long process. We were all … a lot of people put a lot of time into it from all three communities.”
The Dassel-Delano-Litchfield bid beat out three other contenders with impressive tournament and amateur baseball credentials, including New Ulm, Cold Spring and Watkins, and Jordan-Green Isle-Hamburg.
“I don’t know that we were surprised, because we put together such a great game plan and really went down to the detail on how we would make ourselves better,” Jones said. “When we presented, that’s what separated us, the details.”
The Minnesota Baseball Association state tournament traditionally happens the last two weekends of August, wrapping up with final rounds and championship games during Labor Day weekend. Teams from 48 towns around the state competed in the Class B and C tournaments, with total attendance of 14,349 fans seeing games at host communities, Springfield, Milroy and Shakopee. Highest attendance for the state tournament since 2000 came in 2018, when 17,349 town team baseball fans attended games in Shakopee, New Prague and Jordan.
Litchfield has played host to state amateur baseball tournament games only once before, as a so-called “third site” for the Dassel-Hutchinson hosted tournament in 2016. That year, 15,506 fans watched games in Dassel, Hutchinson and Litchfield.
This time, Litchfield is a full partner in the bid, meaning it will likely see more games played in — and more fans visiting — town.
“It’s a statewide version of Watercade,” Jones said of the interest the state tournament creates for host cities. “It’s going to bring a lot of people. It is a big deal.”
Even bigger that it’s the 100th anniversary tournament. And that’s part of what representatives of Dassel-Delano-Litchfield’s bid try to play on, saying they would try to up the profile by bringing in baseball and media celebrities for the tournament. Jones said the Litchfield Baseball Association has talked about playing heavily on local baseball history during the games it hosts.
In addition, the baseball association has committed to field upgrades, including an expansion of the grandstand roof at Optimist Park and an upgrade of the park’s public address system.
Litchfield City Council approved the grandstand roof project last April. The project was estimated to cost $95,000, with the city paying most of the up-front costs. The baseball association said it would pay $20,000 up front, and another $30,000 over six years.
In addition, Litchfield Baseball Association received a pledge from local construction company Systems West Inc. for about $20,000 in labor and equipment costs.
Construction is anticipated to begin this fall, Jones said, in order for it to be completed one year ahead of hosting the state tournament. The association continues to look at other upgrades, as well.
“We want everything to be top-notch,” Jones said.
Along with ballpark upgrades, Jones said, the baseball association will be enlisting all the community support it can muster to help pull off a memorable event.
“It takes a lot to put this on,” he said. “So we’re certainly going to need … going down the road, we’re going to need help from some of the community group — the Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions. We’re already working with the Chamber and the Downtown Council. It really will be community based … so we can showcase our fine community.”