In the front row

by Tom Coombe Echo editor

Stop down at the Ely softball complex this weekend, and there’s a good chance you’ll see Jerome Debeltz.<BR><BR>Between games, he’ll be grooming any and all of the three fields in use during the annual Labor Day weekend slow-pitch softball tournament.<BR><BR>One might find him behind home plate calling balls and strikes, or he might be serving up hot dogs and pop from the concession stand.<BR><BR>He could even be in uniform as a player for one of the 16 teams taking part in the Worth Before the Fall Classic.<BR><BR>It’s safe to say that no one does more for local slow-pitch softball, certainly no one has done more to keep the Labor Day weekend tourney alive, than Debeltz.<BR><BR>For well over a decade, Debeltz has organized the local slow-pitch league and did much of the behind-the-scenes work that allowed softball to continue in Ely.<BR><BR>And each Labor Day weekend, it’s a virtual family reunion at the complex as Debeltz enlists the services of wife Mary and sons Mike, Matt and Chris to run the tournament.<BR><BR>With Mary recovering from surgery, two more family members will make their tournament debut this weekend.<BR><BR>“I’ll have to put my daughters-in-law to work,” joked Debeltz.<BR><BR>It’s a labor of love for Debeltz, who volunteers his services. He takes pride in the success of the Worth Classic, which this year has a full field of 16 teams, from as far away as Grand Rapids, the Twin Cities, Two Harbors and Canada.<BR><BR>All told, nearly 200 softball players, some bringing family and friends will be in town for the event.<BR><BR>“I like to bring teams in town and help the community,” said Debeltz. “That’s why I made it so everyone is guaranteed three games. They play both Saturday and Sunday so they stay overnight and spend money in the community.”<BR><BR>And while Debeltz is quick to credit others - he cited Rick Marolt for hours of volunteer work improving the softball complex this summer - he should be credited as well for the countless hours of work that he’s devoted to the softball program.<BR><BR>There will be plenty of activity this weekend at the softball complex - all three fields will be in use for much of Saturday and Sunday - and it wouldn’t happen without people like Debeltz.<BR><BR>• Anderson Construction put together a record of 18-2 and won the Ely league championship this summer. Jackie’s Liquor finished second in the eight-team league at 16-4.<BR><BR>“We had a good summer, we made it through the whole season without any rainouts,” said Debeltz.<BR><BR>• Sebeka, which beat Ely 7-6 to win the State Division II Legion baseball title, finished second in the Central Plains Regional, held Aug. 12-15 at Milbank, S.D.<BR><BR>Sebeka won four straight games, including a 25-0, first-round blowout of Groton, S.D., before losing twice to Baxter Springs, Kan. in the championship round. Sebeka finished 26-6.<BR><BR>• Zach Etter, the Sebeka star who was named most valuable player of the Division II Legion State Tournament, will be a teammate of Ely Legion recordholder Josh Mathson at Iowa Central.<BR><BR>• Eighth District champion Hibbing was eliminated in two games at the State VFW baseball tournament, held Aug. 13-16 at Alexandria.<BR><BR>Defending state champ Mankato and White Bear Lake downed Hibbing, which finished 29-5.<BR><BR>One of Hibbing’s five losses this summer was to Ely.<BR><BR>• Ely was well represented at the Metrodome Aug. 22, when the first-place Minnesota Twins completed a sweep of visiting Cleveland with a 7-3 win.<BR><BR>About 30 area residents were part of a bus trip to the game, organized by the Ely Jaycees.<BR><BR>• Look for Cory Lassi to get plenty of playing time on the offensive line for Vermilion Community College this fall.<BR><BR>The Ironmen open their season Saturday against Fergus Falls and Lassi, a three-year starter for the high school Timberwolves, will be right at home at Ely School Stadium.<BR><BR>Lassi is battling for time on the offensive line.<BR><BR>Another Ely graduate, Gavin Bialke, is out for the team but has been sidelined by mononucleosis.<BR><BR>• At Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, the Vikings have two Tower-Soudan graduates on their football team - sophomore Lucas Stellmach and freshman Justin Bjorgo.<BR><BR>Both were part of Tower-Soudan teams that advanced to the state tournament in the high school 9-man division.<BR><BR>• Greg Tulla, a 1985 Ely graduate, continues to be thought of as one of the best players in the Arrowhead amateur baseball league.<BR><BR>Tulla has played for Marble for several years, and was drafted by Bemidji to join that team for the Minnesota State Class B Tournament at Jordan and Belle Plaine. State rules allow tournament qualifiers to draft up to three players from their league to boost their pitching staff, or to serve as another catcher, for the state tournament.<BR><BR>It seems like Tulla has a ticket to the state tournament every year. When Marble doesn’t qualify, he’s almost always drafted by an opposing team.<BR><BR>• Former Vermilion catcher Drew Gulden is also participating in the state amateur tournament. He plays for Hamburg.<BR><BR>