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Record-setting year for state amateur tournament

It was a banner year for the South Dakota State Amateur Baseball Tournament at the box office.

A record-setting total of $56,928 was collected in gate receipts this year for the tournament, which was held Aug. 6-17 at Mitchell's Cadwell Park. That is an all-time high for the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association. The previous high was $48,043, taken in 2011.

That figure is helped by a bump in ticket prices for the tournament, which went to $8 for adults and $5 for students per session. The $1 for price change for adults and students was in effect last year when the tournament was held in Sioux Falls. South Dakota State Amateur Baseball Association President Dale Weber, of Salem, said ticket prices are raised periodically to keep in line with district tournament prices.

Regardless, state tournament officials were pleased with the filled stands this year, which was the 82nd annual tournament.

"I just know from watching and then looking at some of the numbers we had, that it was our best tournament ever," said Jim Johnston, of Mitchell, who directs the tournament when it's held in town. "It's not rocket science to figure out what you need to have good crowds. You need local teams going far and you need good weather, and we had both of those."

Weber said quality fans and teams make the tournament what it is on an annual basis.

"When it's a quality product that is competitive and fun to watch, fans appreciate that," Weber said.

Official attendance figures for the tournament are hard to determine because of the influx of tournament passes. That's partially because each player in the tournament gets a pass to each game, meaning not every person in the stands actually pays to get in.

"The players from Groton might not come back, but for a lot of the area players from Parkston or Dimock-Emery or Plankinton, and live reasonably close, might come back for the later rounds," said Herb Sundall, of Kennebec, who serves as the association's secretary and treasurer.

Johnston said he knew that the draw of first-round matchups would be conducive to good crowds. Even after well-regarded teams Canova and Dimock-Emery went out in the first round, long runs from the Parkston Mudcats and Alexandria helped fill the bleachers.

"We saw the bracket and looked at the local teams and knew that we would have a good draw in each of those sessions, and that does go a long ways to bringing out good crowds," Johnston said.

Johnston said the tournament's popularity has been helped by a resurgence of the Sunshine League in the last decade. In four of the last five years, a Sunshine League representative has played in the state title game.

This year, Wynot, Neb., knocked off defending champion Alexandria in the Class B title game, 8-2. Renner defeated the Vermillion Red Sox, 11-3 on the Class A side to make it back-to-back titles for the Monarchs.

Weber said the hard work of people like Johnston, Buck Timmins, members of the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department, Mitchell Exchange Club and Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, among others, is the reason the tournament is a continued success.