It is finally here.
Welcome baseball players, coaches, parents and fans to the Magic City.
It feels good to be back in the drivers seat here at The Minot Daily News after a week off last week. For those of you who weren't here, Chris Bieri wrote the welcome column for the State Class A Tournament as I was on vacation. He did such a good job that we allowed him to do it again, hence the side-by-side, double team of columns. For an extra treat, read each one alternating paragraph by paragraph and hum the chords to "Dueling Banjos."
Central Plains Regional Tournament
But I am glad to be writing another welcome to what I think is the best tournament we have had here in Minot. There has been a lot of excitement leading up to this week, a lot of hard work by many different people and Northwest North Dakota is ready to give you the best possible experience.
In grand tradition of this column, the best advice I can give the players is to enjoy what is probably the last time you will put on a baseball jersey. Sure, there is the big one waiting for the winner and some of you will move on to bigger venues, but for many, this is it. I skipped my first two years of American Legion Baseball because I thought getting a job was more important. Wow, trading baseball for work - believe me, there isn't many days that go by where I am happy about that decision.
As you look though this tournament tab, pay special attention to the middle story about the face lift on Corbett Field. Corbett is the best baseball venue in North Dakota. Sure, it isn't as shiny or big as Newman Outdoor in Fargo, but that's the point. This is our Fenway Park, our Wrigley Field. There is a ton of character involved and a rich tradition inside the confines. Satchel Paige toed the rubber at Corbett, Darin Erstad chased down balls in the outfield and Tyler Lundy dug in at the very home plate you are digging in today. All right, the first two you probably know, but wait a couple years for the latter.
The history of Corbett is awesome. From the Negro League players, to rookie players, to players that never made it past the likes of Corbett, the tradition is what sets it apart from every venue I have been to. The Northern League, which the Minot Mallards played in in the late 1950s and early 60s, featured Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Lou Brock, Gaylord Perry and Willie Stargell.
Corbett's new look didn't interfere with any of the ambiance of the place either. The upgrades are great, but the stately feel of the building isn't harmed at all. I think that is what makes Corbett so great. It has the massive, brick style exterior that dominated the landscape of its time. In a day and age of streamlined, steal and tin, the brick stands out.
With all of its old-world charm, don't worry, the playing surface is top notch. Mike Littler and his crew manicure it like most do their own lawns on a normal year and they have it in perfect condition in this special season.
With all that blubbering about Corbett, my absolute favorite part is the new, or should I say old, entrances into the stadium itself. Walking up the ramps into the main grandstand feels like the big leagues.
And really, this is our big leagues. American Legion Baseball is king in the summer and I hope that shows during your time here.
Whew, all this typing has made me a little tired. In the vein of my radio and television counterparts, I think now is a good time for a commercial. Let's take a break to hear a word from one of our fine sponsors.
(In that annoying high pitched, fast-talking announcer voice) "Want to bring a piece of the tournament home with you? Miss some of the exciting on-field action? Is that annoying fence messing up your keepsake photos? Well, look no further than The Minot Daily News. The Daily News is here to fulfill all of your photography needs. We will have a crack staff of photographers capturing that special moment throughout the tournament. From the big hit, to the amazing catch, to a coach leaping into the arms of an assistant, we capture it all. And, now, you have have the chance to purchase these photos on hats, mugs, t-shirts or in a fabulous glossy print - the options are endless. Just log on to our web-site at (www.minotdailynews.com) and click on the CU banner. That's CU as in we will CU at the diamond!"
OK, now I am refreshed. By the way, the advertisement, while shameless, is real. The Daily News is going to be at every game and does provide a plethora of options in photos, but the fallacy is the crack photography staff is really just me. (Two plugs for CU in the same column, I've got to be getting on the new publisher's good side, right?)
So, to end this rambling bit of prose, remember this is the national pastime. Sure, the critics say football has surpassed baseball, but not in the first week of August - not when the best of the Central Plains comes to town. This is the best way to spend a summer day - the boys of summer, a bag of peanuts or cracker jacks, a cold drink and high drama on the diamond. What a way to end the summer.
(Michael Linnell is the sports editor for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)