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Baseball stadium continues improvements

Cadwell Park has been a work in progress for the last 10 years, with the baseball stadium getting new improvements seemingly each and every year. If a baseball fan hasn't been to Cadwell since last year's state amateur baseball tournament, what t...

Cadwell Park has been a work in progress for the last 10 years, with the baseball stadium getting new improvements seemingly each and every year.

If a baseball fan hasn't been to Cadwell since last year's state amateur baseball tournament, what they'll really notice this week when the state Class B tournament starts Wednesday is the new netting system backstop that will allow a fan to see a game from dugout to dugout without any obstruction.

The Jim Schmidt Memorial backstop was completed this spring and cost more than $50,000 through private funding.

"The big improvement that people will notice is the backstop," state amateur baseball tournament chairman and Mitchell Baseball Association member Jim Johnston said. "We always had that complaint about not being to see over those bars. Fans will be impressed big time when they sit in the grandstand.

"Initially, I don't think a lot of people understood what we were going to do. We knew we wanted a backstop like the major league stadiums had and we knew it was doable. I think fans are going to be surprised and impressed by the major improvement."

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As part of the backstop project, new slabs of cement were poured behind it so people could place their lawn chairs in that area to watch a game. That part of the stadium has been extremely popular, according to Johnston.

The state tournament goes back to Sioux Falls next year, but will return to Mitchell in 2008 and 2009. Johnston said that although Mitchell puts in a bid every year for the tournament, a precedent has been set that it will take place in Mitchell for two years and then go over to Sioux Falls for one.

"Mitchell will always bid on the tournament on a year-to-year basis," Johnston said. "But the state baseball commissioners have set that precedent of two years here and one year there. We have to continually improve the facility in order for it to be attractive to play on, though. We can't put the money into the Sioux Falls stadium like the Canaries have all at once."

In recent years -- along with the new backstop -- new lights, the green fences down the right and left field lines, new dugouts and a larger press box were added on to Cadwell to help in those improvements. Johnston said next year a new scoreboard will be installed to replace the old one that went up in 1988 and that eventually new restrooms could be built to replace the old ones that have been in place since the stadium opened in 1972.

"We've made a request to the City of Mitchell to get new bathrooms built out there," Johnston said. "The one major complaint we have every year at the tournament is the bathrooms. We made the same request to the city last year. We'll get through this tournament again and hope that the council sees a way to finance that for us in the near future."

Johnston said the scoreboard has been a personal mission for him and his two sisters. The scoreboard will be named in honor of his late father, Harve, who was a legendary Mitchell athletic booster and owner of Harve's Sports Shop. Harve passed away this past winter.

"My two sisters and I are pledging money and are trying to get additional funds," Johnston said. "The scoreboard out there is still adequate, but when the sun sets on there it gets tough to read. We put new bulbs in it last weekend and Daktronics was out there to help us. We're definitely looking forward to having that new scoreboard up by next year at this time."

As for the field itself, Johnston credited Parks and Recreation and Chuck Jones for the good shape it's in, despite the dry weather.

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"The crew that works on it does a great job," Johnston said. "Chuck Jones is heads up with his crew. They get things done. You couldn't ask for better people that work on the field out there. It's been a tough year on the diamond. Sometimes the sprinklers don't hit every area because the wind blows out there. We had a few areas of concern, but they've already addressed those. Considering the summer we've had, the field is in excellent shape."

Johnston said he has heard talk about the possibility of putting a roof over the grandstand, but he doesn't believe that's a major concern for the MBA.

"With the new backstop, new scoreboard and possible new bathrooms, we're right on target with being able to continually improve the stadium. The state tournament is a big deal for Mitchell and we want it to keep coming back here."

The MBA is again the official host to the tournament. The Association gets help from the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Mitchell Exchange Club, which runs the concession stands at the tournament.

Johnston credited the Exchange Club and all of the volunteers who work the state tournament for its continued success.

There will be an opening ceremony before Wednesday's opening games at the tournament. The pregame ceremony will honor the memory of Greg Wagner, an Alexandria native and Mitchell resident who was killed in action in Iraq serving for the National Guard this past spring.

Winner takes on Humbolt-Hartford in the first game of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be followed by Montrose against Renner Newcastle at 8.

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