NEW ULM - This Saturday's meeting of the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Association (MSABA) in St. Cloud should prove to be an interesting one for two local amateur baseball teams and some area ones.
According to Fred Roufs of Mankato and a member of the MSABA Board of Directors, there are "between six and eight Class B teams that will be requesting to be reclassified to Class C.
"Hanska, the New Ulm Kaiserhoff, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Maple Lake, Green Isle, and St. Cloud Ortho have submitted written requests to be reclassified to Class C," Roufs said. "We have heard through the grapevine that Winsted is also going to be requesting to be reclassified."
Roufs said that for the most part, the requests of each team are based on the fact that they are seeing a separation in the talent level in the current Class B structure.
"I think personally that there is a definite break in the tier from the Dundas', the Miesville's, the Mankato Twins, to the other Class B teams," Roufs said. "There are probably eight to 10 teams including Rochester and Austin that when they get to the state tournament, they have a shot at winning the Class B tournament."
New Ulm Kaiserhoff's request is based on the fact that the team is not able to compete at a Class B level due to the fact that the majority of the younger ballplayers have elected to play with the Class C New Ulm Brewers primarily due to the travel. Kaiserhoff plays league games in Rochester, Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna.
Hanska was bumped up to Class B because of its second-place finish in the 2009 State Class C tournament and now are requesting to be dropped back down to Class C again.
One of the issues that the New Ulm Baseball Association will present to the MSABA is that Moorhead has four Class C teams [no Class B team], while New Ulm has a Class B and Class C team.
"Part of that thinking is that the [MSABA] has for years has always let a team build their program and then put them accordingly," Roufs said. "A good example of that is Chanhassen. They just started baseball - we put them in Class C. They will be a Class B team shortly but they have not proved it yet.
"New Ulm, on the other hand, and long before my time, has always had outstanding amateur baseball," Roufs said. "They have been in Class B based on their history. They have always had great baseball. I think that they are running into a talent slump right now -you need pitchers in Class B to make a difference."
Roufs said that he was surprised to find out that the New Ulm Baseball Association is requesting the re-classification.
"But I am not sure what New Ulm's reasons are," he said. "New Ulm is going to have to sort out their reasons, when you have three high schools and you have had some pretty successful baseball being played at the Legion level.
"If the best players are going to the Class B team and the players that cannot cut the B team are going to the Class C team, that is a perfect situation for that to happen. But for some reason, they are not getting the younger, better talent to want to play with the Class B team."
New Ulm also provides players to Class C teams in Searles, Hanska and Essig.
A big issue for Class B baseball is the travel.
"I can see that," Roufs said. "In Class B - and Marshall is in the same boat - there are not a lot of Class B teams that are close."
If New Ulm was allowed to drop down to Class C, Marshall would be left out with their closest Class B team being the Mankato Twins.
"I have a proposal to shorten up Class B to 24 teams - six sections of four teams each - with neither Hanska or New Ulm in that B section," Roufs said. "I asked Marshall what would they do if we reclassified them to Class C and they said that they had too much pride to play Class C baseball. If that happened, Marshall said that they would drop all of the college baseball players that they have."
Dave Hartman has a proposal that would make Class B 32 teams and lump everyone else back into Class C.
"I would have another proposal to take 24 Class B teams and move them to AA," Hartman said. "I would then take the next 64 teams and call them Class B and then the rest in Class C for a three-class system."
Roufs said one of the potential pitfalls that New Ulm could face if it was dropped down to Class C is what league Kaiserhoff would be accepted in?
One other aspect that the state board will look at closely is the use of college baseball players.
"If we are going to allow the Mankato Mets to be in Class C maybe we need to limit the current number of college players they can have that are not from the area," he said.
Whatever happens this Saturday, it looks to be an interesting day for local amateur baseball fans.