One of my favorite parts of summer is attending town team baseball games. From the unique names like the Midway Snurdbirds and Nimrod Gnats, Watertown Red Devils and Bemdiji Blue Ox, the history of each of these teams and their hometown appeal is quite interesting.
A few years ago I also read an interesting article in the Star Tribune about the town feud that started in Milroy that resulted in a second town team, the Milroy Irish, being formed. At the date of the article, in 2018, the Milroy Yankees and Milroy Irish have never played a game. If you have ever been to Milroy there isn’t much in that town besides baseball, but that is the case for many of these town teams. Literally, the town consists of an amazing baseball field with a bar, gas station if you are lucky and not much else.
What’s really interesting is the family history for each of these baseball teams. It seems like fathers stick around long enough to play baseball with their sons, while cousins and brothers all don the same uniforms from one season to the next (how many Geisers and Dykhoffs currently play for Bluffton after all).
One example of this was former Minnesota Twins star Corey Koskie picking up a bat again this season to play for the Loretto Larks. Now I don’t know how Koskie did this season, but he was talked into coming out of retirement by his sons who wanted to play a season on the mound with the father. Think about how awe inspiring it would be for a high school baseball player, or even someone in their 30s, who watched Koskie play during his time with the Twins to get to pitch against him.
Last weekend Koskie’s season came to an end at the hand of the Dumont Saints, a team I played for in my hometown when I was in college (I use the word play loosely as our team was absolutely stacked for those two years and I was one of the “young guys”). Leading up to the game a number of people who currently play for the Saints were commenting on social media about the unique opportunity to play against a former professional baseball player in the state tournament.
That’s what is pretty unique, at least in my mind, about the state tournament. You have everyone from 17-year-old high schoolers to people approaching 50-years-old taking the same field at the same time. Oftentimes, well for those above the age of 21, at the end of the game the two teams crack open a few beers and share a laugh on the field.
Even Dick Bremer got into the action over the weekend as he tweeted out a congratulations to his hometown team. For those who didn’t know, Bremer lived in Dumont, Minn., for a number of years during his childhood. He talks about going to the now abandoned ballpark quite frequently on Minnesota Twins telecasts.
Locally we have had quite a bit of success at the state baseball tournament in the past few years with the Bluffton Braves and New York Mills Millers each advancing to state recently. The Braves are playing in the round of 16 on Friday night against the Sartell Muskies with the winner taking on either the Sobieski Skis or the Dumont Saints.
The state amateur baseball tournament will come to a close this weekend as the top 16 teams in Class C play in Waconia. And when the final out is recorded on Monday afternoon, the end of the summer sports season will officially come to a close and we can turn our attention to the fall sports season. Of course I’m rooting for the Braves locally, but if both Bluffton and Dumont happen to lose before making it to the finals, I’m jumping on the bandwagon of the smallest community left in the tournament. Because everyone loves a good underdog story, and oftentimes it’s the smallest teams of all that make for the most unique story.