-- by Louie Opatz, MBA freelance writer
Each trip to the baseball diamond offers myriad beverage options: Gatorade, water and soda, sure — but also your pick of the region's finest 3.2% pilsners.
This summer's slate of amateur baseball tournaments offer a similar assortment of options: the Busch Lite Invite, the Budweiser Classic, the High Life Invite and the Coors Light Classic are just four of the numerous tourneys dotting the summer schedule. Some even aren't named after beers.
Aside from a chance to relax and enjoy some cold ones, tournaments also offer teams an opportunity to bring in some money for the club.
"We’re the only team that uses our field and we’ve pumped in thousands and thousands of dollars into it. It was basically a way to financially fund-raise a fundraiser weekend," said Mickey Rademacher, manager of the Rosen Express, who will host the Busch Lite Invite from June 23 to 25. "You get six teams to a ballpark in a weekend, you’re going to generate funds to a ballpark."
Belle Plaine's Tigertown Classic — which is an eight-team double elimination tournament that runs from June 9 to 11 — began as a wood bat tournament more than 20 years ago, back when a wood bat tournament was a novelty.
Former Belle Plaine manager and current general manager Brett Kruschke has seen the tournament evolve over the years and knows what it takes to make a good tournament.
"A good tourney includes quality teams, teams that return year after year, teams that bring fans, teams that will stick around, support the concession stand and have a beer," Kruschke said in an email. "For teams that have come to our tournament for five, 10 years or more, traditions develop. You get to know teams and their fans, stories get told and re-told; somebody might have set a record for eating hamburgers, another team might have a favorite song or two that gets attached to them. It's lots of little things like that, that add up."
Because the bulk of MBA tournaments come in the middle of each team's league schedule — six of the seven tourneys listed below occur in June and one is in July — a weekend reprieve from league action can offer teams a chance to spread the playing time around too.
"It’s more of a relaxed game — all of them are relaxed — but this one definitely gives you a chance to give guys at-bats who don’t get as many at-bats or innings on the mound," Rademacher said. "In our league every game counts toward the postseason and we don’t really play any other non-league games except for the tournament."
Many of this summer's tournaments boast high levels of competition: Elrosa's inaugural Elrosa Elite State 8 Tournament, for example, features eight teams — Elrosa, Raymond, Regal, Beaudreau's, Foley, Hutchinson, Delano and the Cold Spring Rockies — that reached either the Class 'B' or Class 'C' state tourney in 2016; Raymond, of course, raised the Class 'C' title trophy when the dust settled on Labor Day weekend.
The Rockets will also play in the Coors Light Classic from July 7 to 9 in Shakopee and Jordan, where they'll face a field of seven formidable foes from both Class 'C' and Class 'B': Jordan, Moorhead, Elko, the Shakopee Indians, Cold Spring Springers, Hampton and Sacred Heart will square off in a tourney littered with state tournament appearances and titles.
For the host team, throwing a tournament isn't all brews and baseball, of course; a lot of hard work goes into making sure everything runs smoothly.
"There's lots of work to be done to host a tournament, as well, and I am proud to say that, for the entirety of our tournament, it's been primarily player-supported," Kruschke said. "Meaning, since we typically have 20-plus players, we ask them each to sign up for five shifts over the weekend. By and large and somewhat to my amazement, that's gone very well. Our 10-member Baseball Association also donates their weekend to being up at the park, and along with a few other 'old reliable' volunteers, that gets it done."
Especially by the time Sunday rolls around and the weekend's activities — both on and off the field — have taken their toll, tournament hosts can be run a little ragged. Rademacher has noticed a bit of a dropoff for his Rosen Express by the tournament's final day, though the team's tournament finish isn't necessarily the top priority.
"We’ve never been in the tournament to put our best team out there and win the damn thing," Rademacher said. "When you work the whole tournament you’re exhausted by Sunday."
Wherever you hope to catch a tournament, you can be certain that Rosen's Busch Lite Invite is an apt advertisement of what to expect in Rosen, Minnesota from June 23 to June 25.
"Busch Light is like the king beer of Rosen, it always has been, always will be," Rademacher said. "It’s like a 20-mile radius around here: everyone knows that people in Rosen drink Busch Light and that's it."
Let's raise a glass to all those town teams hosting a tournament this summer, and check out the list below for more information on seven can't-miss midseason tournaments.
If your team is hosting a tournament that is not listed here, please send a message to @MinnBaseball on Twitter and it will be added.