By Aaron Schultz
HOWARD LAKE, MN The time has come when Howard Lake will be showing off its beautiful baseball park on the shores of Howard Lake to teams from across the state of Minnesota.
That park is, of course, Memorial Park, and the best Class B amateur baseball teams from all across the state of Minnesota will descend upon Howard Lake Saturday, Aug. 24 for the opening round of the Class B state tournament.
The Class C state tournament opened up this past weekend in Delano and Maple Lake, the two main sites for the 2013 state tournament.
Howard Lake is the third site, and will get into the action Saturday when they host four opening-round games for the Class B state tournament.
Action begins at 11 a.m., and will conclude with a game starting at 7:30 p.m. that evening.
However, those are the only four games scheduled to be played at Memorial Park.
That could change if poor weather would force games to get postponed.
If needed, additional games could get moved to Howard Lake.
This will be the first time Memorial Park and Howard Lake has ever been a part of hosting state tournament action.
Talking with Howard Lake Orphans’ manager Mike Gagnon, hosting a state tournament has never been a real goal for the team.
“At the end of a North Star League meeting a few years back, we were asked if we would consider being a third site for state in the coming years,” Gagnon said. “They told us it was unlikely they would win a bid, and even then, our field would only be a back-up in case of rain.”
Gagnon told them “sure,” but then put a condition on it, telling the league that if they were going to be a third site, they would like to be the host to the Region 12C tournament.
Well, the NSL went for that, giving Memorial Park in Howard Lake this year’s Region 12C tournament, which just wrapped up Aug. 11.
“If we didn’t have regions, I don’t think we would have agreed to be the third site,” Gagnon said.
Since Gagnon was first approached about Memorial Park being the third site, there has been a change to the state tournament format.
Instead of the third site only being a back-up for rain-outs, it now hosts four Class B games.
By being able to host regions, Howard Lake was able to keep Memorial Park in great shape, and could keep the park game-ready, as well as making sure the concession stand is full with food and beverages.
As for Memorial Park, it has never looked better.
“Knowing we had the state tournament coming up, it made us get going on some of the projects we always intended to do anyways,” Gagnon said.
Some of those projects included moving the batting cages to the right field line, building a storage shed, new bulbs for the lights, and enclosing the right field line with a fence.
The biggest thing, according to Gagnon, is to make sure and delegate and spread out the work to as many volunteers as you can, making sure just a handful of workers don’t get burned out.
The Orphans have a strong core of volunteers for the tournament, with roughly 15 people who have taken an active role in helping prepare Memorial Park for state.
While this Saturday will be a great chance for Howard Lake to showcase Memorial Park, don’t expect another state tournament to be coming anytime soon.
“As long as I am here, I don’t see us hosting state again,” Gagnon said.
Some of the challenges Memorial Park has as far as being a main host for state is their seating.
Memorial Park can handle up to around 450 fans for a game, but much more than that would be a challenge.
Also, the press box isn’t large enough to handle what being a main state tournament host requires spots for two state board members, additional radio spots, and seating for two statisticians.
Ultimately, Memorial Park is a great place to play and watch a game, and this Saturday, that will be on full display for the Minnesota baseball community to see.
Howard Lake Orphans 2013 State Tournament Committee
• Chairman Mike Gagnon
• Field Supervisor Mike Mitchell
• Advertising/Website Maintenance Cindy Zitzloff
• Announcer Dan Fogarty
• Concessions Betty Johnson, Collene Fogarty, Wanda Gagnon
• Field Mowing Bob Heber, Shane Heber
• Grounds Crew Tim Sonnek
• Parking/Traffic Jerry Koch, John Koch
• Scoreboard Operator Tim Munson
• Equipment Operator Kevin Gruenhagen
• Team Hosts Chad Burau
• Ticket Sales Kay Gagnon
• Waste Management Shelly Reddemann and family