Ballpark set for busy finish
This weekend’s Legion tourney kicks off flurry of more than 50 games
While the July 4 holiday was filled with festivities and people and celebrations in Ely, it was largely quiet at historic Veterans Memorial Field.
In many ways, it was the calm before the storm.
That’s because this weekend begins an onslaught of tournament baseball at the ballpark, bringing a virtual avalanche of visitors to the community.
The 11-team Sir G’s Legion Midsummer Classic began Friday, with 15 games in all at the ballpark this weekend.
But that was just the opening course, as from Friday until Aug. 6, a whopping 54 baseball games will be played at Veterans Memorial Field.
Parts of the next five weekends include tournament games at varying levels in Ely.
“If you like baseball, you don’t have to leave Ely to see a lot of it,” said Tom Coombe, tournament organizer and head coach of Ely’s American Legion baseball team. “The Midsummer Classic this weekend has 11 very good Legion teams and it just keeps right on going with playoffs coming up for all of our teams.”
After this weekend, the lineup includes:
• Opening round play in the Senior Legion Northeast Substate Playoffs, with four games on Saturday, July 15, another on Sunday, July 16 and two more on Wednesday, July 19;
• The Junior Legion Northeast Substate Playoffs, with opening games on Sunday, July 23, followed by action on Tuesday July 25, Saturday July 29 and the championship game on Sunday July 30;
• The age 14U Iron Range Baseball League Playoffs, with games on Friday, August 4, Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6.
Sprinkle in some remaining regular season games, and the baseball diamond will be a very busy place over the next several weeks.
All of the events will bring hundreds of players, coaches and spectators to the community, while this weekend’s Midsummer Classic results in hundreds of room reservations at various lodging establishments, with all of the visiting teams staying overnight - some for as many as three nights.
“Baseball results in a lot of economic development,” said Coombe. “You’ll see baseball people around town in droves this weekend and the next few weekends as well.”
The tournaments will include some special events at the ballpark, including the annual Veterans Night celebration on Wednesday July 19, and a still-to-be-scheduled day recognizing Ely’s Little League baseball teams.
The Ely Baseball Association invested over $11,000 in electrical improvements to the ballpark lighting system a year ago, and the group is exploring further improvements to the facility, including field upgrades, a new batting cage, and potentially renovations to the restrooms and concession area and construction of another viewing deck.
Those plans will come together at the conclusion of the current season.
Ely hosted the Division II Junior Legion State Tournament last summer and has been selected to host the Division II Senior Legion State Tournament in 2025.
That event, slated for Aug. 1-3, 2025, will bring several hundred people to town and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first State Legion tournament held in Ely in 1975.
“We want to do that one up right,” said Coombe. “We may have some sort of Ely baseball reunion the same weekend to coincide with that tournament and recognize some of the great players and teams that have come through the program.”