--by Mike Randleman, Litchfield Independent Review
For the first time in its 93-year history, the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Championship is coming to Litchfield.
For three consecutive weeks beginning Aug. 19, Litchfield’s Optimist Park will be the third site, alongside primary hosts Hutchinson and Dassel, for the Class B and C tournaments.
After several unsuccessful bids to host the state tournament in the past, most recently in the late ‘90s, Litchfield’s prayers were finally answered when the bid was awarded in 2013.
Since then, Litchfield Baseball Association president Mike Thompson has been hard at work in preparing Optimist Park for some of the state’s finest amateur ballplayers to come to town.
Thompson has overseen improvements to the park that include the addition of a maintenance shed, a re-staining of the grandstand, enclosing the perimeter of the field and repairing the outfield fence.
The MBA mandated the improvements to get Optimist up to a state-tournament caliber, and the Litchfield Baseball Association, along with steady support from the city of Litchfield, delivered.
“They really have no problems with what we have there,” Thompson said after the board’s inspection of the field in July. “They thought the park was in beautiful shape.”
State board member and Litchfield native Mike Nagel had no shortage of praise for the revamped ball field that also features a concession stand, public address system and backed seats.
“Litch has done a great job, they probably have one of the most beautiful outfield fences with the scoreboard incorporated in it,” Nagel said. That’s a lot of work to build that fence and it looks gorgeous. The surrounding [area] has really grown up with the trees around it. People can gather around and relax. It’s going to be a really nice setting.”
Though Litchfield only received 11 games in comparison to the 20-plus allotted to Dassel and Hutchinson, all 11 games are class B matchups that will feature some of the best talent the three sites have to offer. Four games apiece are played on Aug. 20 and 21, two on Aug. 27 and a semifinal matchup on Sept. 3.
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See also: "Amateur tourney arrives at Litch" (May 10, 2016) by Louie Opatz, Litchfield Independent Review