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Tarp ready to protect Cadwell Park

The Cadwell Park infield sits under a tarp Tuesday night to protect the playing surface prior to the start of the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball tournament, which begins today at 6 p.m. in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Hosting an outdoor sporting event leaves Mitchell at the mercy of the elements, but the city and the Mitchell Baseball Association have a yet-to-be-used defense against the rain for the South Dakota Class B state amateur baseball tournament starting today at Cadwell Park.

After a situation several years ago, the MBA and the city of Mitchell decided a professional-grade tarp was needed to ensure that the Cadwell Park field would remain in playable condition for the 32 teams over the next 12 days.

After sitting on the sidelines at Cadwell Park for two years, the tarp was rolled onto the field at Cadwell Park for the first time Tuesday night and will be removed early today if no rain is in the forecast.

"It was easier than I thought, but I can see how it would be difficult on a windy day," Jim Johnston, the amateur baseball tournament chairman said. "It would not be safe to put the tarp on the field in 40-mile-per-hour winds."

The tarp is 170 feet by 170 feet and takes 40 people to roll out and put back. The precaution is designed to protect the infield of Cadwell Park from rain accumulation.

According to Johnston, the decision to purchase the $7,500 tarp was made after the tournament in Mitchell four or five years ago, when the infield took on water during a Wednesday session. Johnston said it rained that day in the morning and despite the sun coming out in the afternoon, the field was unplayable due to the amount of water.

"It was pretty embarrassing to have the sun shining and not be able to play," Johnston said. "The tarp we have now is ideal for what we need to keep the field ready."

Johnston said the decision to roll out the tarp must be made in advance and weather reports will be closely monitored. Waiting until the wind starts blowing and the rain starts falling is not an option. He added if the tarp is able to save one session of baseball for a tournament, then the investment was worth it.

During the tournament, three grounds crews of 12 members will be on hand to help with the tarp if the need arises. Johnston added that the decision to leave the tarp on overnight is a concern due to the potential for the summer heat to harm the grass underneath.

The opening game of the tournament is between Tabor and Clear Lake at 6 p.m. today, with Groton taking on Winner/Colome at 8 p.m. The old-timers game is set for 1:30 p.m. today, kicking off the 12-day event.

Pheasants coach Kevin Graesser said he is not concerned with the weather impacting his team.

"We are used to the travel and Groton will be in the same position we are if it rains," Graesser said Tuesday. "If the game gets pushed back, then we have to be ready and, hopefully, guys will not have a problem with work schedules."