By Nick Gerhardt
Baseball fans who like the look of historic ballparks are going to feel like they’re in heaven at this year’s state tournament.
With games at Delano’s park, which dates to 1896 and Maple Lake’s park, which goes back to 1950, and Dassel’s, which saw play beginning in 1901, this year’s state tournament is big on nostalgic ballparks.
This will be the fourth time that Delano and Maple Lake have co-hosted the state tournament. The last time came in 2013. In the lead-up to the 2013 state tournament Maple Lake’s field underwent several renovations. For the 2019 state tournament there have been a few updates, this time with a focus on the field.
“The field is the most important thing for us,” said former Maple Lake manager and tournament chair Chad Raiche. “It’s just that old school feel that people like.”
The first thing fans will notice at Irish Stadium this year will be the brand new digital scoreboard that got installed.
The Lakers added more permanent seating before the 2013 state tournament and the club is considering additional seating for the 2019 tourney. The park holds roughly 800 people as it is and after last year’s state tournament attendance numbers, Irish Stadium will make for a lively atmosphere. The 2018 state tournament drew 17,349 fans — the most since 1960.
Maple Lake will work on its bullpens to prepare for the 2019 state tournament by fencing them off, adding artificial turf and mounds.
As far as the grandstand, there’s some discussion on putting backs on the benches and adding rails along the aisles.
Maple Lake co-hosted its first state tournament in 1984 with Delano and Irish Stadium saw several upgrades at that time. The park got a new exterior fence, concession stand, dugouts, pavement and a chain link fence around the playing surface.
In advance of the 1997 state tournament that Maple Lake hosted with Delano once again, Irish Stadium saw the playing field get redone and a sprinkler system installed. The team also erected a new scoreboard at that time.
When Irish Stadium got built in 1950 it came with lights but it wasn’t until 2012 that the park got new light fixtures and underground wiring. The club replaced the tall chain link fence around the playing surface and added a wood wall with netting above and in front of the grandstand. Padding was also added on the field side of the grandstand.
The park also got wood bleachers with back rests along the first base and third base sides to go with a standing deck on the first-base side.
The dugouts got extended and water fountains were added at that time as well. The club also added chain link fencing down each foul line to make the playing are completely enclosed, which also made the ground rules easier.
Six years later the Lakers took on revamping the playing surface by installing new infield sod and reseeding the outfield.
This year the agri lime will be removed and replaced with artificial brown turf from the first base dugout to the third base dugout in front of the grandstand.
The final touch to prep for the 2019 state tournament is enclosed bullpen areas with turf.