ELY – Sitting on the third base side at Veterans Memorial Field here last Friday afternoon, Deb Augedahl let out an ear-splitting scream as a Caledonia player belted a two-run homer to break a …
ELY – Sitting on the third base side at Veterans Memorial Field here last Friday afternoon, Deb Augedahl let out an ear-splitting scream as a Caledonia player belted a two-run homer to break a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning and beat Luverne in the first round of the American Legion Division II state tournament.
Augedahl is the wife of the coach for Caledonia and her son Eric pitches for the team. She was busy video recording the game and she had been nervous with the score knotted right up to the final inning.
“That’s why I love this game so much,” she said, as Caledonia players rounded the bases. “It can be so exciting.”
As she packed up her gear to catch up with her team, she admitted that this was her first time in Ely. “This is a pretty amazing field here, and the community is so full of really nice people.”
She was impressed that the Luverne team members were allowed to get their food first at the opening night banquet because they drove the furthest to get to Ely. “They are seven hours away and we are only six hours away,” Augedahl said. “They won that one, but we won today when it counts.”
From a roster of 126 teams in playoff action for the last several weeks, the road, to the state title ended at, well, the end of the road with the final eight teams competing here all weekend for the championship trophy.
This past weekend’s competition added another chapter to Ely’s rich history of hosting major American Legion baseball tournament at the venerable Veterans Memorial Field on the ISD 696 campus.
In the past 50 years, as many as nine state Legion tournaments have been hosted by Ely. “After a six-year absence we again have major tournament action in ‘Tourney Town USA,’” said Ely baseball coach and tournament organizing committee member Tom Coombe.
The events last weekend marked the culmination of a year-long community effort and a $45,000 investment to make much-needed improvements to the ball park to showcase Ely’s commitment to the game.
The Ely Baseball Association hosted the event, that brought players from all around the state to compete for the state title. American Legion baseball is the highest level of youth baseball, with participants ages 19 and under.
Competition started Friday morning. A pause in the action Friday evening for an opening ceremony and a salute to local military veterans preceded Ely’s first game of the tournament.
Bill Erzar, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was one of about two-dozen veterans who took part in the opening ceremony. “I think we have one of the nicest baseball fields in the whole state,” he said. “The whole complex is first-class.”
Erzar recalled other big baseball tournaments in Ely’s past. “I was right here back in 1980 when we had the American Legion World Series. I met Ted Williams and Bob Fellers, and we had a terrible storm that Saturday night that flooded out the whole field. It looked like it would never drain, but the tourney never missed a beat.”
Erzar was quick to commend the Ely Baseball Association. “They sure know how to run a tournament.”
Lyle and Cheryl Mattson traveled from Virginia on Friday to watch their nephew, Trevor, play ball for Ely. They said they liked the improvements to the ball field, and always like coming to Ely. “My best part is just watching the games,” Cheryl said.
Denise Bishop, an Ely Memorial High School grad who is now a nurse in Madison, Wis., said on Facebook, “The American Legion State Tournament in Ely makes me reflect on my younger years and my dad, Dick (A.J.) Foy, who coached Little League in Ely for many years in 1970s and 1980s. I grew up at the baseball field and remember the first World Series at Legion Field.”
Cori Housey, who has a son, Tyler, on the Ely team, also helped to organize the tournament. “There was a lot of hard work that went into this. It was a big challenge getting the field into shape along with the rest of stadium,” she said. When the Legion officials came up to inspect the field, they were really impressed.”
Major sponsors for the weekend includedEly Dairy Queen, Twin Metals Minnesota, Steger Mukluks, Zup’s Food Market, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, Mesabi Bituminous/Nemanich Trucking, Fortune Bay Resort Casino and the North American Bear Center.
Augedahl said she was hit with one more big impression at Veterans Memorial Field, “I like that they have indoor plumbing!”
While Ely, as host, was among the eight teams taking part in this weekend’s tournament, they struggled throughout, falling 9-0 in the opening round to the tournament’s eventual champion, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, or DGF. Ely went on to lose 4-1 to Luverne and 7-1 to Breckenridge.
The team from Caledonia took third place in the tournament, so had something to cheer about on their six-hour journey home.