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Planning a state tournament

July 26, 2009
By Jeremy Behnke — Journal Sports Editor

NEW ULM - After this coming weekend, Vern Kitzberger and the rest of the New Ulm Legion Baseball Committee can finally relax a little bit after finishing a plan that was nearly two years in the making.

Kitzberger, who is the President of the Legion Baseball Committee in New Ulm, is a Co-Director of the plan to host the 2009 American Legion State Baseball Tournament in New Ulm. The tournament begins Thursday and concludes Sunday.

The plan started about two years ago after New Ulm lost out on another bid to host a premier legion baseball tournament.

Article Photos

Photo by Steve Muscatello
Members of the New Ulm Sleepy Eye and Essig Legion Baseball Committees are planning the upcomint state tournament that will be held July 30-August 2 2009.

But although New Ulm didn't get one tournament, the committee was encouraged to come back and try again.

"We can go back to the end of 2007, we actually bid to host the Central Plains Regional," Kitzberger said.

"We didn't get that bid, but at that fall meeting, we were encouraged to bid on the state tournament. We had spent a number of months preparing the bid on the regional, and we had come back and we explored the feasibility of that, so that took most of that winter.

"By the spring meeting, we had put together a bid and we went to the spring meeting and we got the bid."

New Ulm is no stranger to hosting baseball tournaments, which Kitzberger said helped out in the bid.

The fact that New Ulm hosted the Central Plains Regional Tournament in 2003 and the VFW state tournament in 2007 showed the state legion committee that New Ulm was more than capable of hosting a tournament of this caliber.

After finding out they were going to host the tournament, they had to come up with a budget and they had to show the state board that they had the equipment and facilities necessary to pull it off.

"We had to come up with a budget and we have to house everybody - do we have those capabilities, and can we come up with a facility to host the banquet," he said.

"We have to provide meal money to the players everyday and have capabilities to provide other equipment and when we weighed that against potential income, we felt that we could do that without losing any money."

After coming up with a plan for the state, Kitzberger and fellow Co-Director of the tournament Paul Sabatino had to organize a committee of local board members to specialize in several smaller areas of concentration.

From there, they appointed Jean Prochniak as Head of Finance (includes sponsors), Paul Wieneke Head of Housing (includes hotels for teams and players as well as state personnel), Gordy Palmer Head of Officials (includes official scoring and tournament headquarters), Pat Schugel Head of Stadium (includes concession and food stand, meal coupons), John Fischer as Head of Venue (includes medical, opening ceremonies, flag raising, parking), Jim Bastian as Head of Media, Tony Breu as Head of Banquet and Kitzberger and Sabatino as Heads of the Booklet (tournament media guide).

After the tasks were divided up amongst the members of the board, there was a general meeting of the public to gather volunteers to help out with the various tasks of hosting the 16-team state tournament.

Next, the committee had to figure out where to play the games, especially on the first day (Thursday) when four different venus will be needed to play all of the games.

So Johnson Park and Mueller Park in New Ulm were logically the first two choices, and after weighing all of the other options, Essig and Sleepy Eye were picked to host the other games on Thursday.

"Essig was easy because we've had such a good working relationship with them with our [Junior Upper Midwest and Upper Midwest] Classic Tournaments over the years," Kitzberger said.

"Sleepy Eye had a good reputation as far as their facility goes and they actually approached us to be involved. At that point, we just voted on those facilities knowing that there were other excellent facilities to use if those wouldn't have worked out."

The state does all of the brackets and scheduling of who plays who, so the New Ulm board didn't have to worry about that. Because one of the venus doesn't have lights, the state board allowed one of the venus to schedule games earlier in the day.

"Normally you start all the games at 10 o'clock, but on Thursday they're going to allow us to start at 8:30 in Essig because there's no lights and these are nine-inning games, and last year some of those games went long," Kitzberger said.

"They also allowed us to start our first day at 9:30 at Mueller so that our legion color guard could present at colors as Mueller and at Johnson Park."

And the committee is also prepared for the possibility of rain. Although the tournament is supposed to be done by Sunday so that teams who qualify for the regional tournaments can go ahead and make plans, it is possible rain could always push things back to further complicate things. But if that happens, the committee will also be prepared for that and getting the housing and other tasks put together.

Overall, Kitzberger said that being in charge of organizing a state tournament has been difficult and time consuming, but everything has worked out so far and everyone has helped out tremendously.

"It was intimidating at first, but the chairmen were really enthusiastic," Kitzberger said.

"Paul and I had a lot of confidence in them and we just asked questions. We asked them if we thought this could be done in their particular areas, and they came back and to us and asked us questions that we didn't have the answers to.

"But this whole time, the state legion has been so co-operative and I don't know how many e-mails we've sent them, but everything's been answered and I've really been impressed by the cooperation," Kitzberger said.



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