NORTH MANKATO - The 2013 Minnesota State High School Softball State Tournament certainly had a New Ulm feel to it as two local teams advanced to play in the state tourney for the second year in a row.
The tournament, which is run by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) recently held the annual two-day event for the 36th time at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
The softball tournament is under the leadership of Lisa Lissimore, who has worked for the League for 25 years as an Associate Director with administrative responsibilities in tournament management, sponsorship marketing, merchandise sales, and promotional programs.
The New Ulm Eagles softball team hold up their Class AA championship trophy.
Lissimore attended Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, where she graduated with a BA in Communications. She originally wanted to be a sports writer, but instead worked for the Minnesota House of Representatives as a writer. She coached women's basketball at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul for five seasons, and one season at her alma mater Central High School in St. Paul.
The tournament itself began in 1977 with Coon Rapids being crowned the first-ever state champion. Since then, New Ulm Cathedral has won six state championship and New Ulm High School has won two.
The site of the tournament has moved several times, but it is now played at Caswell Park, where the MSHSL is able to take advantage of the six-field complex and state-of-the-art facilities.
The complex, as well as the city of North Mankato, has been very helpful to the MSHSL.
"The City of North Mankato was very instrumental in bringing the state softball tournament to the area," Lissimore said. "The City ensures that the ballpark is available each year. They coordinate a pre-tournament banquet for the teams and their families. More than 800 people annually attend the banquet. The City of North Mankato has been a great tournament partner. They have made things so easy that we simply come to town and play."
Of course, Mother Nature always seems to want to interfere with the activities planned for the two-day event. The tournament has seen everything from thunderstorms to tornadoes while in North Mankato. But no matter the circumstances, Lissimore said the crew at Caswell is ready for anything.
"The grounds crew at Caswell are the best in the business," Lissimore said. "They work extremely well with my staff especially when there's inclement weather. They've devised communication plans to inform teams and fans about playing conditions and they work hard to keep the field groomed and always ready for play."
More than 5,000 people make the trip to the softball tournament every year, representing teams from three classes (24 teams at the state tournament overall).
Every year, there seems to be a lot on the table for Lissimore, but she handles it just fine.
"I'm very blessed to do work that is meaningful, enjoyable and in tune with my spirit," Lissimore said. "The work is truly a labor of love. I forget that it's a job."