By Matt Kane
DELANO The Minnesota State Amateur Baseball tournament has come and gone in Delano, Maple Lake and Howard Lake.
So, was the three weekend tournament worth it for the communities that hosted?
“It was absolutely worth having,” said Delano Athletic Club member Jeff Janzen, who was a key player in organizing and running the tournament in Delano. “The state board is already asking when we will put in a bid for another one.”
Janzen is an amateur baseball lifer, having played 21 seasons for the Delano Athletics and in 17 state tournaments before retiring after the 2011 season. He has a reason to be biased, but his opinion on the success of the state tournament this season is backed by statistics, the most telling of which are attendance and dollar figures.
Over the course of the three weekends and 61 total games (the tournament began the weekend of Aug. 16-18 and ended Labor Day weekend) for the Class B and Class C tournaments, the total paid attendance for the three sites was 14,161. That’s the highest attendance mark since 1998 when Hamburg and Chaska attracted 17,346 fans.
“I would say the attendance was close to 20,000 with kids and players from other teams, who both got in free,” said Janzen.
The only real problem Delano had during the tournament was a good problem to have trying to accommodate the overflowing crowd.
“The problems we had were mostly due to too many people,” Janzen said. “We were running out of ice and had to get more concessions. We had to put fans in the bullpen because we ran out of seating.”
Delano and Maple Lake have a reputation of packing in the fans, as the last time the two towns hosted, in 1997, they drew 14,512 fans.
The last time a state tournament drew 14,000 fans was in 2008, when Chaska and Shakopee drew 14,116. The 2012 tournament in St. Cloud drew 12,002 fans.
The strong attendance numbers at this year’s tournament can be attributed to a number of factors, including rain-free weekends (only one game was delay by rain), the fact that 48 teams qualified for the Class C tournament for the first time, the inclusion of high-drawing teams in the tournament, and the fact that Delano, Maple Lake and Howard Lake are all baseball-loving communities.
“It was huge,” Janzen said of the attendance numbers. “Over the first two weekends, the stars aligned, with all the best-attended teams winning. The state board said they had never seen anything like it before.”
Those high-drawing teams included the likes of Maple Lake, Howard Lake, Winsted, Elrosa, Sobieski and Lake Henry in Class C, and the Cold Spring Springers and Shakopee in Class B.
People attended the tournament games for a number of reasons, but they all spent money, according to Janzen.
He estimates six figures in gross sales at both Delano and Maple Lake, and a 50 to 60 percent profit margin. The profits are split down the middle between Delano, which hosted 29 games, and Maple Lake, which hosted 28 games. Howard Lake’s payoff came from its concessions from the four Class B games it hosted in the opening round of that tournament.
Those profit figures will help Delano easily pay off two years of its 10-year loan for stadium repairs made over the years leading to the tournament. The two-year portion to pay off was just under $35,000. The goal prior to the tournament was for Delano to net $50,000.
“There is no way we didn’t reach that number. We surpassed that,” said Janzen, who works as a financial advisor.
Sales came from concessions, where beer and cheeseburgers were the top-selling items all three weekends, and ice cream sundaes were included in that list on the first weekend when temperatures reached the mid-90s. Also, Delano sold out of programs.
The money figures made the tournament a financial success, and the workers made the tournament a complete success.
“Everything went fantastically,” said Janzen. “As much stress as we had in the weeks leading up to it, all of a sudden, a day or two before it started, volunteers came out of the woodwork and alleviated the stress.”
Close to 300 volunteers worked the tournament in Delano.
“The more people the better, because then they understand the importance of the tournament and it becomes a community effort,” Janzen.
The group of volunteers included baseball people and non-baseball people.
“The core group included the people involved in baseball over the years, but there were a lot of people who probably don’t know much about baseball at all helping down there,” said Janzen. “The nice thing was even if they worked one shift, it was huge.
“We really want to reach out to everybody involved and thank everybody. From the volunteers to the city workers, it was a community effort. We wanted to make it profitable and fun for everybody involved.”
Janzen and many of the volunteers worked a lot more than one shift. He was at the ball park pretty much every day in the month of August. During the tournament, Janzen was at the park at 8 a.m. until 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday. The mowing crew, Stefan Snyder and Adam Jaunich, hopped on their mowers at 5:30 a.m. each morning.
“The field held up fantastic,” said Janzen.
All the work paid off.
“A lot of fans told us it was the best tournament they had been to and it was well organized,” Janzen said. “The board said we set the bar high for future state tournaments.”
The current rules are that Delano and Maple Lake cannot host again for 10 years. There are talks to amend that rule.
The 2014 state tournament is in Jordan and Belle Plaine.
The tournament will return to the North Star League in 2016, when Hutchinson and Dassel-Cokato host. The 2017 tournament will be in Norwood and Green Isle, and the 2018 tournament will be in Shakopee and New Prague.
Delano Municipal Stadium hosted maybe the two most memorable games during the 2013 tournament. The first was a no-hitter thrown by 44-year old Mike Adelman, a draftee from Clinton, Aug. 24 while pitching for Dumont in a 2-0 win over Lamberton.
The second was the 17-inning marathon game between Howard Lake and Belle Plaine Sept. 1 in the quarterfinals. Belle Plaine won the game 7-6.
Cold Spring won the Class B tournament for its eighth state championship. The Springers defeated Shakopee Sept. 2 in the championship series at Delano Municipal Stadium.
Sartell won the Class C tournament with a 10-0 win over Belle Plaine Sept. 2 at Irish Stadium in Maple Lake. It was the second state championship for the Muskies.