By Nick Gerhardt
This is the first of a series of articles that will focus on the ballparks that will host the 2018 MBA state tournament. In the following weeks co-hosts Shakopee and Jordan will be featured.
There will be more than championships to celebrate at New Prague Memorial Park Baseball Stadium in 2018.
That’s because of the efforts of the New Prague community to make sure that field where celebrations of the 2018 Minnesota Baseball Association state championship will take place will be in pristine condition.
New Prague, Shakopee and Jordan will host the 2018 Minnesota Baseball Association state amateur baseball tournament and for the community of New Prague receiving the three weekends will serve as the culmination of nearly five years and $1 million of work.
It takes a community effort and collaboration from a number of groups to complete a project like New Prague undertook.
New Prague Memorial Park Baseball Stadium has undergone a three-phase project to completely revamp the ballpark into something worthy of celebrating.
In 2013, New Prague and Shakopee secured the 2018 state tournament bid and work started shortly after that to organize the effort to prepare the park.
The construction work started in 2015 with the grandstand and concession stand. A brand new concession stand and restrooms were built. In 2016, the group installed new lights, made scoreboard enhancements, built bullpens and revamped the mound. This year, the group constructed new dugouts, fixed up the grandstand and installed a new press box. In addition, the park has new batting cages, an updated irrigation system and a fan seating deck.
This all comes in preparation of New Prague’s first time hosting the state tournament. It comes at a good time for New Prague area baseball. The New Prague Orioles reached the final eight along with two other Dakota, Rice, Scott League members Union Hill and Faribault. The 2018 tournament will also be the first time a DRS team will serve as a host. The Shakopee Coyotes play in the DRS and Shakopee hosted the 2008 state tournament. But the Shakopee Indians served as the primary host for that tournament along with Chaska.
Six parties, in addition to in-kind donations from community members and businesses, have helped finance the renovations at the park. The city of New Prague is covering 52 percent of the cost while the New Prague Area School District contributed 11 percent of the costs since the school district plays games at the park. The New Prague Utilities Commission is chipping in 6 percent and the New Prague Baseball Committee is contributing 17 percent of the costs. The New Prague Orioles have picked up 2 percent of the cost and the New Prague Youth Baseball Association is adding 1 percent. The remainder is funded through in-kind donations.
The New Prague Baseball Committee started a capital campaign in 2015 in order to raise $150,000 for the renovations and to date it has raised 85 percent of that, according to Michael Sticha, one of three chairs of the state tournament committee for New Prague.
Sticha, Jerry Plambeck and Jerry Walerius, who served as the DRS president for 25 years, chair the state tournament committee and went to work on partnering with the city of New Prague to improve the park.
“Jerry Plambeck went to the city council and outlined needs of the ballpark and hopes the city and local teams using New Prague Memorial Park Baseball Stadium could work together on improvements,” Sticha said. “This was in the fall of 2013. Soon it was realized the park would need significant upgrades, and the city was open to exploring a more robust plan to ensure the ballpark improvements made sense holistically.”
The trio found outstanding support from New Prague City Administrator Michael Johnson, Public Works Director Glen Sticha, Parks Director Jim Calliguri as well as representatives from the school district and athletic associations.
“Without the city we wouldn’t be where we’re at now,” Walerius said.
Representatives from the city of New Prague attended the 2013 state tournament in Delano to get an idea of what to expect and what needed to be done in New Prague to prepare for the state tournament, Walerius said.
For Walerius, landing the tournament is special after leading the DRS for a quarter of a century.
“This is kind of a hotbed of baseball,” Walerius said. “Six of our teams in the area are in the school district. For me, I always wished we could get [a state tournament] in our area. It’s been my wish to see our league to host one of these.”
Teams within the New Prague Area School District include New Prague, Union Hill, Veseli, New Market, St. Patrick and Webster.
Work at the park has continued into the fall. Block work on the first base dugout, press box and storage area wrapped up Oct. 3.
No matter how the local teams fare, if they reach the state tournament, there will be plenty to celebrate in New Prague this year.