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Mitchell lands 2016 state amateur tourney

The crowd stands for the National Anthemn

The South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association threw a curveball when it decided Mitchell will host its state tournament for what will be the third straight year in 2016.

South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association President Dale Weber told The Daily Republic on Monday that the association's commissioners unanimously agreed on the location last week, following the conclusion of this year's tournament.

In recent years, Mitchell has hosted the tournament on a two- out of three-year rotation. Since 1999, Mitchell has hosted the state tournament for two years and Sioux Falls received the third year in the rotation.

That's why it's somewhat surprising Mitchell received the 2016 tournament, because it typically would have been in Sioux Falls, based on the recent rotation.

"After seeing the results and all of the hard work that the city has put into making the event as great as it is, we thought we would award the tournament to them as a pat on the back and a way of saying 'Congratulations, and we're coming back,' " Weber said.

Weber said Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Yankton were the other communities interested in hosting.

The state amateur tournament is 32-team, single-elimination format that spans 12 days for the state's smallest communities that play in Class B. The Class A state tournament for the state's largest towns concludes at one central location, meaning Mitchell will host those games in 2016. This year, there were a total of 37 state tournament games -- both Class A and B -- played in Mitchell over 12 days.

Weber said the decision was made earlier than usual as a way to cut down on speculation regarding where the tournament would be held. The tournament will still be up for bid in 2017.

"Since Mitchell did so well hosting the tournament this year and we had a great event, this is our way of thanking them for a job well done and we are awarding them the 2016 tournament," he said.

Jim Johnston, who directs the tournament when it's held in Mitchell, said he's excited to get the tournament back for a third consecutive year.

"We've always told the association that we want to have our hat in the ring," he said. "Even in the years it has gone to Sioux Falls, we've made a bid for it."

Johnston said the community has to remain in full support of the tournament because that's what he believes makes it a successful event in Mitchell.

"We can't rest on our laurels," Johnston said. "We have to stay aggressive and continue to make the tournament as strong as we can."

Johnston noted recent improvements at the city-owned Cadwell Park as an example of why the town is a great host. New lights went up in 2001, followed by a new backstop in 2005 and new bathrooms in 2008. A recently added tarp and a $30,000 project on the park's entryway and ticket booth have helped boost the park's image, as well. A new scoreboard has also been added in recent years.

Mitchell Baseball Association President Jim Larson said every tournament the city can bring makes a positive difference.

"Whether that's 10 and under and the state amateur tournament, we want those tournaments to come to town because they benefit the businesses that support our teams throughout the season," Larson said. "We want to bring that money back to the community."

Mitchell Baseball Association uses the tournament as a fundraiser for the organization, including selling programs, 50/50 raffle tickets and bingo cards, in addition to taking in a percentage of the concessions. Larson said the group tries to raise about $1,000 for each of the 12 days of the tournament.

"I don't think you can look at any other tournament in the state at any other location that is more anticipated for players and fans than the State Amateur tournament at Cadwell Park," he said. "It's a highlight for everyone who plays there."

Mitchell and the State Amateur Baseball Tournament:

• The tournament has been held in Mitchell 27 times since the city became a regular host in 1975. No other South Dakota city has hosted more than 13 times.

• Mitchell hosted the tournament for eight straight years from 1985 to 1992, the longest stretch for a single host city since Aberdeen for 11 straight years in the 1930s and 1940s.

• Cadwell Park was built in 1972, which helped bring the tournament to Mitchell for the first time in 1975.