American Legion needs new venue
ELY -- If you've never seen the sunrise while riding on a charter bus for seven hours across the entire state of Minnesota, then you've been missing out.
For the Adrian legion players, coaches and a few parents, that was the sight Thursday morning before the eight teams descended upon Ely, a small town in the middle of nowhere in an area farther north than I ever knew existed.
Don't get me wrong, Ely appears to be a great town if you are here for a select list of things: fishing, canoeing, camping or just enjoying nature. The abundance of outfitters and the opportunities are endless for those wishing to escape the world for a while and relax. Lake Shagawa is clean and clear and would be great to try and catch a few northerns.
However, this is no place for a state baseball tournament.
The field is in great shape relatively speaking. The grass is green and it is obvious that the entire facility has been well kept. But, after leaving Adrian at 5 a.m. and sitting in a bus for virtually eight hours, the field was not as inspiring as what I had dreamed.
Adrian is not the only school that had to make a ridiculously long trip; other schools had nearly as far to travel. Adrian's opponent, Jordan, left at 6 a.m. to make the trip to Ely. La Crescent also made a lengthy journey to reach the northern exposure.
And of course, while the rest of the teams scramble to find places to stay - moving hotels because of lack of space in some cases - the Ely players are sitting comfortably at home. They are sleeping in their own beds, and eating their own food.
To me, there are two problems with this. One, the town that hosts should never be in the tournament. While I realize that the site for this year's state tournament was set long before the teams qualified, one would think there's a neutral site somewhere in the state of Minnesota. Legion is split into two divisions, Division I and II. Ely is the site of the Division II tourney, so why not play at a site of a Division I school? Or better yet, why not play in the dome? Or on the field where the St. Paul Saints play? While the tournament has not yet played itself out, no one will ever be able to tell how much of an advantage Ely has playing in its home stadium.
And two, a state tournament should never be within a stone's-throw of Canada. Adrian is about as far in the corner as possible, so the chances were pretty good that Adrian would have to travel at least a few miles.
Eight hours on a bus to a state tournament, though?
A state tournament should be as centralized as possible. Realizing that it's not always possible to be completely centralized, it is the responsibility of the higher-ups to try, and not just look at the dollar signs.
This will be a great experience for players and fans alike. But will they remember the tournament or the obstacles they've had to overcome even before a pitch was thrown?
Finding hotels in the area was more difficult and more of a hassle than hitting a hole in one. Some fans had such a run around they made reservations in New York.
A State tournament quality town?
Not so much.
The legion and the community of Adrian were supportive enough to raise the money needed for this trip, saving on time and money of those who would have had to drive themselves.
Although Adrian suffered a loss in the first round, one has to wonder if this whole ordeal could have been more difficult. And of course, if getting here wasn't hard enough, they were pitted against the two-time defending state tournament champions in Jordan and faced a pitcher who is likely on a path to a division I scholarship.
But at least there will still be some good from this trip - the younger fans can go and visit Santa himself, because hey, the North Pole is just up the road.