Ely lands ’05 Legion regional

by Nick Wognum

A heartbreaking loss in the state finals kept Ely’s American Legion baseball team out of this year’s Central Plains Regional Tournament.<BR><BR>But no matter what happens next summer, Ely won’t be kept out again.<BR><BR>That’s because the local team will have an automatic bid in the multi-state event as the host team.<BR><BR>For the fourth time in seven years, Ely will host a major Legion baseball event.<BR><BR>After two successful state tournaments here as well as the 2000 region event, Minnesota Legion baseball officials have awarded yet another tournament to Ely.<BR><BR>The 2005 Division II Central Plains Regional will be held at Ely’s Veterans Memorial Field from Aug. 11-14.<BR><BR>State Legion baseball officials unanimously approved Ely’s bid during a meeting earlier this month.<BR><BR>“Your past experience and past success hosting tournaments, plus your willingness to provide another enjoyable experience for the American Legion teams throughout the region is greatly appreciated and a credit to your community,” Minnesota Legion Baseball Director Darwin Berg wrote in a letter to the Ely committee.<BR><BR>The eight-team, double-elimination tournament will bring more than 100 players and coaches - and hundreds of parents and fans - to the area.<BR><BR>It will also continue Ely’s long tradition of hosting top-flight baseball events.<BR><BR>Since 1975, when the late Matty Stukel brought the first Legion state tournament to Ely, the field has been home to seven state tournaments, two multi-state regional events and the 1980 American Legion World Series.<BR><BR>Most recently, Ely hosted the state tournament in 1999, the Central Plains Regional the following summer, and another state tournament in 2003.<BR><BR>The 2005 regional will bring the Division II state champions from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota. The Minnesota runner-up and host Ely will also draw bids, while the eighth slot will either go to another state champion - perhaps Nebraska - or a runner-up from a neighboring state.<BR><BR>“We’re very excited to bring another big tournament back to Ely,” said Tom Coombe, coach of Ely’s Legion baseball committee and a member of the tournament organizing committee in 1999, 2000 and 2003. “The tournament will have a tremendous economic impact on the community, it’s great for our baseball program, and it’s rewarding to be able to carry on with Ely’s baseball tournament tradition.”<BR><BR>The host committee takes on major responsibilities, including all housing and feeding costs for the seven visiting teams. Total expenses are likely to exceed $25,000, but the Ely committee hopes to recoup those costs through gate fees, concession and souvenir sales, sponsorships, and various fundraisers.<BR><BR>Fundraising is expected to begin later this fall - by way of a $10 tournament pass that will be sold to area residents and baseball fans. The pass will be good for admission to all 14 tournament games and will double as a raffle ticket for various prizes.<BR><BR>The bid means committee members will soon go back to work to prepare for the tournament..<BR><BR>The group will organize next month, but a date and time have not yet been finalized.<BR><BR>“It’s the people who make these tournaments a success,” said Coombe. “We’ve had a very dedicated group of people, and anyone is welcome to help.”<BR><BR>