OUR VIEW: Baseball, hope and small town South DakotaWe consider ourselves the daily newspaper of record for much of the great southern middle of South Dakota — a substantial chunk of the state stretching from Presho to Salem, from Woonsocket to Winner and including dozens of other places within a 17-county area.
We consider ourselves the daily newspaper of record for much of the great southern middle of South Dakota — a substantial chunk of the state stretching from Presho to Salem, from Woonsocket to Winner and including dozens of other places within a 17-county area.
Along with all aspects of life in Mitchell, the plight of the people in the small towns and on the farms and ranches around our region is what we concern ourselves with every day.
In recent decades, there has been a slow and painful decline in much of our broad area. The number of farmers and ranchers supporting our towns has dwindled with improving technology, and the state’s two major population centers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City have sucked up most of the growth as young people have fled rural areas in search of economic opportunities.
This has led to all manner of depressing developments in small towns, including school consolidations and closures; reduced hours at courthouses; threatened closures and hours reductions at post offices; vanishing grocery stores; evaporation of medical and other vital services; and most recently the closing and consolidation of Farm Service Agency offices.
The proverbial rug is being pulled right out from underneath the towns that gave so many of us not only our start in life, but also our values and our identity.
As tough as it is to see businesses, schools and other institutions close, it’s often the littler things that hurt the most — things like the inability of a town to field a baseball team. Last spring, in yet another sign of the decline of small towns, we reported that the number of teams in the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association had dropped by more than half since 1962.
But it’s often said that in baseball, hope springs eternal with the start of each new season. That is truly the case in some area towns this year.
When we published the story about the decline of amateur baseball, it was motivated largely by Wessington Springs’ failure to field a team for the first time in more than two decades.
This year, amateur baseball is back in that small town. It’s also back for the first time in many years at Armour, which we reported in a feature story Thursday, and in Kimball and White Lake.
Perhaps this is a trifling development, but we think it may hold at least some significance. In our small towns, summer “town team” baseball has always been a societal staple, an event around which townspeople rallied.
Could the return of baseball and its cultural glue to some of our small towns be a sign of stabilization, and maybe even better times to come?
Like die-hard baseball fans, we’ll never relinquish hope.