Diamond Cats begin Wednesday night
By Erik Buchinger
For the first time in 22 years, the Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Class A State Tournament will be held in Clintonville.
The tournament will run from Wednesday, July 26 until Sunday, July 30 at Don Jirschele Field at W.A. Olen Park in Clintonville.
Clintonville submitted a bid to be the tournament host in October 2015, and after the Legion committee reviewed the applicants, Clintonville was selected in January 2016.
According to Tournament Director Mark Doornink, the committee considers making sure there are enough hotel rooms, parking and good facilities, among other things.
Don Jirschele Field has been upgraded due to the state tournament coming to town, which included new dugouts.
“Dugouts were the top priority, and we got that done this spring,” Doornink said. “Once that was done, we wanted to fix the playing surface to make sure it was top-notch, so we leveled the field with infield mix.”
There are also warning tracks in front of both dugouts on the first and third base side, and the bullpens have been moved.
Doornink said the renovations to the field were done in mostly due to the fact that the state tournament was coming to town.
“The opportunity to host something like this gives everyone a little extra energy to get things done,” Doornink said. “Endless things that needed to get done from park and rec and from the street committee, and both organizations have knocked it out of the park. They’ve been doing an awesome job.”
Doornink said he expects the impact to local businesses in Clintonville will be significant.
“I think the business impact will be tremendous,” Doornink said. “The hotels are full, and EAA is here, so that helps as well. We filled up the Landmark [Motel] completely. I think it will be huge, even for our downtown retail shops. This brings in hundreds of people who would otherwise never come here, so we’re excited for those businesses.”
As the host team, the Clintonville Diamond Cats receive an automatic bid to the state tournament and will make their 13th appearance at state. Clintonville last qualified in 2014.
“Besides being really good for our community and showcasing our awesome facilities, it also selfishly provided a state baseball opportunity for our own legion team, which I think every kid should experience,” Doornink said.
According to Doornink, the baseball games will be played at a high level.
“These are the top teams in the state,” Doornink said. “We have three high school state qualifiers that are going to be here with Iola, West Salem and Waupun. People can watch top-notch baseball from the first pitch till the championship. An old time baseball feel is what we’re going for, and it’s going to be great.”