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Play ball!: Mitchell is center of state’s baseball action in month's span

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The colors are presented at the pitching mound prior to the singing of the national anthem as the eight teams competing stand along the diamond during opening ceremonies for the Class A American Legion state baseball tournament on Friday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.

Mitchell is taking a whole new meaning to the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

The Cadwell Sports Complex is the center for all things baseball -- youth, Legion and amateur -- this summer. Coming off the heels of the three-day state Class A youth tournament for ages 9 to 12, Cadwell Park is hosting the Class A state Legion tournament through Tuesday. On Aug. 7-18, the facility will host the Class B amateur tournament and both Cadwell Park and Drake Field will host the final three days of the Class A amateur tournament on Aug. 16-18.

"That's all happening within 31 days and we are playing games on 20 of those 31 days," said amateur baseball tournament director and Mitchell Baseball Association board member Jim "Jocko" Johnston. "That's a lot of baseball."

The three consecutive baseball tournaments are believed to be a first for the Cadwell Sports Complex. Johnston has been involved with events at Cadwell Park since the mid-1970s and he doesn't remember a year when all three were in Mitchell. Cadwell Park last hosted the Legion tournament in 2010, but the amateur tournament was in Sioux Falls that year.

Baseball is the one sport most associated with statistics and numbers to help chronicle its every play. Here’s how the month-long stretch of baseball breaks down:

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  • Youth tournament: 120 games and 60 teams.

  • Legion tournament: 14 games and eight teams.

  • Amateur tournament: 37 games and 38 teams.

It adds up to at least 171 games and 106 teams in the span of 31 days. But if there's a community that can handle all the hardball, it's Mitchell.
The town and surrounding communities breathe baseball during the summer. Mitchell is equipped with top-notch facilities and the many volunteers embrace the task of hosting all three events.

"We are always really well-prepared with tournaments," Mitchell Post 18 coach Luke Norden said. "Our board members that run the state tournament just do an unbelievable job with that and we get so many compliments."

The baseball community is just that during this time of year. Board members, parents and players all assist with the tournaments. The Mitchell Post 18 Legion players umpired the youth tournament, while a host of volunteers prepared the youth baseball fields for Saturday's action after a rainstorm hit Mitchell earlier that morning.

"I think when people come to Mitchell for a baseball tournament, they know that the local community is going to rally around the event," Johnston said.

Cadwell Sports Complex also hosted the South Dakota Women’s Over-35 Slowpitch tournament on July 13. It will host the South Dakota Men’s Slowpitch E state tournament on Aug. 10-11, as well.

Dan Dobesh has been the Cadwell Sports Complex Supervisor since 2015 and he doesn't remember so much baseball or softball played at the facilities in one summer.

"It's not every day you get to have this many tournaments back-to-back," Dobesh said. "I think we've made some big improvements as far as grass quality and field quality goes, especially at Cadwell’s stadium itself in the past three or four years. It always makes you feel really good to know there's a bunch of people coming from around the state to see what you do on a daily basis that a lot of people don't normally get to see."

Dobesh said it can be stressful on the field and his staff to prepare the playing surfaces, but they take pride in showcasing what the Mitchell's facilities have to offer. And Dobesh and his crew have added little touches that make Mitchell’s storied ballpark stand out, with the newest being a major-league-style tarp, now equipped with a cover that says “Cadwell Park.”

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"That's why we spend so much time working on details when we have these big tournaments, knowing that everybody is going to be looking at, 'Is every little line straight? Is everything edged?' " Dobesh said. "It's just the little details overall that come together and I think that makes the place pop."

It doesn't go unnoticed by the teams and players, especially the home club.

"The city does an unbelievable job making sure the playing surface is really good and I think that's probably one of the most important things for the teams is that they have a nice facility to play at and it's fan friendly," Norden said. "Cadwell is a great place to watch a game. I think you are going to get a lot of casual fans at games just around the community and the surrounding communities coming over to watch some really good baseball."

The Mitchell economy also receives a boost during this time of year. Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Director Sonya Moller noted businesses, hotels and restaurants all benefit from the sporting events.

"We love having any sporting event come to town," Moller said. "Especially youth sporting events because they bring people with them -- from moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, aunts and uncles, brothers, sisters. All of that. It is a huge asset to our community."

It's also tourist season and the downtown businesses benefit even more with the baseball events going on. Moller pointed out during the rainstorm last Saturday, some youth baseball players took in the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo parade during the delay.

"All of those events are great quality of life pieces for the people who live in Mitchell, for the people who live in our region and then for those who just come into participate and then go back home," Moller said.

Mitchell hopes to continue being the home for all the baseball. The youth tournament will be in Mitchell for at least two more years. Cadwell Park is already a popular destination for the amateur tournament. The Legion tournament rotates among the other Class A communities, but Mitchell has an opportunity this weekend to show it continues to belong in the rotation on a regular basis.

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"Hopefully we can have a really good atmosphere this weekend and show the state and the Legion commissioners that this is a great place to have the tournament and we need to come back here more frequently," Norden said.

Related Topics: BASEBALLCADWELL PARK
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