Building a championship team can take several years.
For the Maple Lake Lakers, it took 73 years to reclaim the Minnesota
Baseball Association championship in 2012, after last winning in 1939.
Preparing to host the state tournament is also a daunting task, one that Maple Lake has embraced since winning the bid for the 2013 tournament in 2009.
“Awarding the bid in advance gives teams years to prepare the field,” Maple Lake Lakers Manager Chad Raiche said. “There are improvements that need to be made. It has to be top notch. The playing surface has to be nice. Concessions have to be set up and we have to have enough seating.”
Though hosting the tournament has been a couple years in the making, much of the preparation comes down to the final 365 days.
“The last year is really when we’ve put the projects together,” Raiche said. “We put new lights up. That was a $90,000 project –something we’ll have to kick back after the tournament. We’re adding new bleachers, asphalt, fencing, knee walls and extended
dugouts. They require that because the roster limits are expanded.
“I think the biggest thing we worked on was our field,” Raiche continued. “We want it to look like a golf course. That’s the first thing players notice.”
So what goes into preparing a pristine playing surface?
A fairway mower keeps the grass short and plenty of water and fertilizer keeps it looking alive and well. Top-dressing, spreading sand over the surface to remove bumps, keeps it smooth.
“We water it a ton and
fertilize it a couple times a year and top-dress it,” said Raiche, who takes an active role in field upkeep. “We edge it, too. Where the baselines are, we keep them straight and crisp so it looks nice.”
Regardless of the work that has been done to this point, winter will require the chores to be redone.
“We have to start all over in the spring with the same work we did last year,” Raiche said. “As long as we don’t have a terrible drought, it’s going to look nice. We had it looking nice last year. We’ll have another top-dressing in the spring and at the end of the regular season.”
A three-week break between the regular season and playoffs will allow the Lakers to make such last-minute improvements.
He is thankful for the volunteers and city employees who have and will continue to assist with upgrades.
“City employees, if we ask them for help, they’re all over it,” Raiche said. “We’ve been fortunate because I’ve talked to other cities and their public works departments are not as gracious. Jerry Sawatzke, Al Hudek and Ken Elsenpeter are awesome.”
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