Marion braces for onslaught of 12 year olds
Accommodations scarce as city prepares to host Midwest Regional Cal Ripken tournament
“This is the BIG tournament,” Marion Recreation Director Margo Yates said.
Marion organizers were prepping the baseball complex Thursday in anticipation of seven regional teams invading Marion for the Cal Ripken Midwest Regional 12-year-old, 70-foot base paths tournament starting Friday.
Two teams from Missouri and Nebraska, and teams from Minnesota, Colorado, and Ottawa will compete against the host Cottonwood Valley All-Stars team, coached by Scott Heidebrecht.
Terry Edwards built a pitcher’s mound on Field B. The portable fence was moved to fit Cal Ripken regulations. A snow fence was placed by the concession stand for a ticket booth.
While the physical preparations have begun, the logistics of housing players and officials has been the largest hurdle for Yates and housing director Allison Shults.
Visiting players will be taken care of by Marion families. As a part of Cal Ripken rules, a host family must house players.
Shults has been contacting families since October to host players. One Marion residence will be the temporary home for six players. Shults is hosting four players from Colorado, in addition to her three children: Bryce, 12, who plays on the Marion team; Tori, 10; and Chance, 6.
“They’ll just be part of my family for the days they’re here,” Shults said. “My kids are excited.”
The visiting children are effectively Shults children because she is required, as are all host parents, to shuttle the players to the ballpark and do the athletes’ laundry.
As of Thursday, Shults was not sure how many players each team was bringing; state tournaments ended last week, which determine the regional tournament competitors.
Heidebrecht said the Marion team has 11 members and 12 is the usual number for a team, but teams could have up to 15 players. Shultz was still looking for families to house players as of Thursday. Even though they are a Kansas team, Marion families will also host Ottawa players.
“It’s a guessing game until we know the numbers on the roster,” Yates said.
Yates has also reserved lodging for four umpires, the coaches, and Cal Ripken officials at the Country Inn Motel in Marion.
Cal Ripken officials will occupy Country Inn’s 15 rooms. Manager Curtis Hancock said the other rooms will be filled with construction workers.
“We’ve actually been 90 percent full for the last three months,” Hancock said.
However, the majority of those tenants, workers on a U.S. 50 project, will be gone today with their work completed on the highway.
With the motel already filled, Yates advertised motels, inns, and bed and breakfasts in Florence, Hillsboro, Ramona, Herington, Newton, and McPherson.
“Marion can’t house everyone,” Yates said.
Yates said other businesses in town should see an increase in business with the tournament, especially restaurants.
“We do hope the businesses see the value of folks coming to town,” Yates said. “You never know when somebody will decide to move here because they liked what they saw.”
The housing rule is just one unique rule that Marion organizers must follow. Cal Ripken dictates spectators are to be charged $5, that three umpires need to be on the field, and that only one field can be used.
But, Marion officials are setting regulations of their own. With a 105-degree high temperature predicted Saturday, water coolers will be available in both dugouts. Wet frog towels, chamois-like towels, will also be available to keep players cool.
As another avenue to give visiting players an activity, they will be given one free day at USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center. This policy will be advantageous if there are rainouts, like there were in 2008.
This is Marion’s second regional tournament in four years. In 2008, Marion did not have an indoor pool and Sherbowl Lanes was under renovation. There should be more activities for families this year, Yates said.
“Things come up; you just have to be flexible,” Yates said.
Teams are scheduled to arrive Thursday, checking in at the Marion chamber office between noon and 3:30 p.m. There is a picnic at 6 and then a home run derby at 7:30.
The first game is Minnesota vs. the champion Missouri team, noon on Friday. Marion plays at 7 p.m. against the second-place Missouri team.
The championship game will be 11 a.m Monday.
“We frankly think it was a compliment that they asked us to do it again three years after the first one,” Yates said.