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Ely lands ’05 Legion regional

A heartbreaking loss in the state finals kept Ely’s American Legion baseball team out of this year’s Central Plains Regional Tournament.But no matter what happens next summer, Ely won’t be kept out again.That’s because the local team will have an automatic bid in the multi-state event as the host team.For the fourth time in seven years, Ely will host a major Legion baseball event.After two successful state tournaments here as well as the 2000 region event, Minnesota Legion baseball officials have awarded yet another tournament to Ely.The 2005 Division II Central Plains Regional will be held at Ely’s Veterans Memorial Field from Aug. 11-14.State Legion baseball officials unanimously approved Ely’s bid during a meeting earlier this month.“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.The eight-team, double-elimination tournament will bring more than 100 players and coaches - and hundreds of parents and fans - to the area.It will also continue Ely’s long tradition of hosting top-flight baseball events.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.Most recently, Ely hosted the state tournament in 1999, the Central Plains Regional the following summer, and another state tournament in 2003.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.“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.”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.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.The bid means committee members will soon go back to work to prepare for the tournament..The group will organize next month, but a date and time have not yet been finalized.“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.”

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