NEW ULM - Sometime today, members of the New Ulm Baseball Association will be able to sit down and relax after two straight weekends of helping out at the annual summer baseball tournament games at Johnson and Mueller parks.
And while many of them have been through the tournaments before, one person definitely won't forget his first time of being in charge of directing the two tournaments.
Dave Buegler, who has volunteered with numerous baseball tournaments in town over the years, was in charge of the Junior Upper Midwest Classic last weekend and the Upper Midwest Classic this past weekend. Because the two are regarded as two of the better high school-aged summer baseball tournaments in Minnesota, there's always a lot of pride at stake.
Photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm has been hosting the Junior Upper Midwest Classic since 1993 and has held the Upper Midwest Classic for the past 30 years.
Buegler has been a member of the Legion Baseball Board for four years and was involved with the New Ulm Junior Baseball Association for 10 years prior to that.
This is his first year as tournament director, so he got a rude awakening in the form of inclement weather during the weekend of the Junior Upper Midwest Classic.
On Friday of the Junior Upper Midwest Classic, rain, wind and tornado warnings forced the cancellation of six games and bad weather continued Saturday night, forcing more games to be cancelled.
Last year, he helped out with the tournaments held in New Ulm and he got some help with another tournament veteran, Vern Kitzberger.
"As far as working at the Upper Midwest Classic, this is my first time," Buegler said. "Last year I got trained in by Vern Kitzberger, and I've been running tournaments for years for Junior Baseball."
The tournament resumed on Sunday, and it crowned the Tonka Mudhens as the champions.
"It was better than I expected with the weather we had," Buegler said. "We finished it, and that's the main thing."
The Junior Upper Midwest Classic is the first of the two tournaments, and it generally runs before the Fourth of July weekend. This year, there were 12 teams in the tournament - two from New Ulm and one from Sleepy Eye, as well as Mankato, Luverne, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, Hutchinson, Rochester, Osseo and two teams from Omaha, Nebraska.
The Junior Upper Midwest Classic started in 1993 and it runs four days.
The Upper Midwest Classic runs the weekend of July 4th, and it also has 12 teams. There are two teams from New Ulm, along with Sioux Falls, Rochester, Apple Valley, Las Vegas, Sleepy Eye, Burnsville, Eastview (Apple Valley), Duluth, Creighton, Nebraska and Plover, Wisconsin.
It is also a four-day tournament. It began in 1980, making this the 30th year of the tournament.
Buegler is mostly in charge of a staff of American Legion veterans and the New Ulm Baseball Board members during the course of the tournaments. He must make sure there are enough volunteers to help throughout the weekend.
Buegler said there are 18 Legion Board members that are assigned to work at least at some point during the weekend. Also, the parents of the players on the Legion and VFW teams help out with T-shirt sales, taking tickets and other various tasks .
"I think the biggest thing is just organizing the help," Buegler said. "The more organized you are, the smoother things run. Communication is a big thing - make sure everybody knows when they gotta work and just lining everything up."
And the list of volunteers to help out seems endless. There are many people, Kitzberger and Buegler included, that help out in concession stands or at gates, but there are also those who do a lot of work behind the scenes, stuff that doesn't necessarily get seen by the general public.
Kitzberger also said that the announcers and scoreboard operators also help give the tournament a nice touch and that also is a big help for the tournament.
And, of course, there are several veterans of these tournaments who know their roles and assist without needing to be told what to do. That is a big help to the tournament organizers.
"You've got the Legion members, the Will Burdorfs and the Gordy Palmers, the guys that have been around for a long time," Buegler said. "They're always there to help out. They're always around to answer your questions so that makes it a lot easier."
The tournaments also must have a program with rosters. Kitzberger helps get advertising for that publication. All that work is done months in advance.
"As chairman of the Legion Baseball Committee, I don't directly run the tournaments," Kitzberger said. "We put things on our agenda throughout the year, like selling ads for the program and establish what we're going to charge for entry fees and ticket passes and things like that."
Of course, somebody has to make sure there are enough teams to participate. Buegler begins by sending out information to teams late in the year, and the tournaments usually fill up pretty fast.
"Dave sends out postcards to teams that have been in the tournament, and if they don't respond by a certain date, then we have a waiting list of teams that want to get in the tournaments and then we start to contact them," Kitzberger said. "Basically, the tournaments are full already by February."
And the games can't be played without umpires.
"With the umpires, we have one guy that's in charge, that's Rick Wellmann," Buegler said. "He's in charge of all of the umpires and gives them a schedule, and he takes care of all of the rest."
The Baseball Committee will have a somewhat easier time now that the two midsummer tournaments are over, but beginning July 22, another tournament will take place in New Ulm when the city hosts the VFW District Tournament.
But the committee has done this before, and it's rare for them to be unprepared.
"Last year's [State] Legion tournament, that was a challenge," Kitzberger said. "There were requirements that we had to satisfy that we hadn't had to do before. So that was a learning experience. Apparently we did it right because everybody was pleased with it, but I would not call it a routine tournament.
"We've got a strong committee of 18 people, and a lot of times they don't need to be told what to do, they just do it," he added. "If a situation arises, we handle it in the way we've handled it in the past, so experience is good with something like that."