Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

The hard work of countless volunteers will come to fruition this weekend as Henning and New York Mills will become the epicenter of baseball and softball in the state of Minnesota. In fact, one would be hard pressed to not get in touch with their inner Ray Kinsella from the 1980s classic movie “Field of Dreams” and utter the line “if you build it they will come” at least a half dozen times this weekend. 

That’s because Henning, who recently completed an expansive upgrade to its baseball field, will host the 2023 Midwest Plains Babe Ruth baseball tournament from Thursday through Sunday and NY Mills will host the second-ever state Legion softball tournament at one of the nicest small town softball complexes in the state. 

Both Tony Kawlewski Field in Henning and Lund Park in NY Mills are a real gem in the community and it is nice to see all of the hard work by the volunteers and overall vision of the facilities pay off on both a state and national level. Tournaments like these in our own backyard don’t come around very often, but when they do, it is important to thank all of those who put in the hard work to make these facilities get noticed in the first place. Obviously we are doing something right around here to have two communities host such prestigious events on the same weekend. 

We hear questions raised quite on occasion from residents, mostly those who are not into the whole athletic scene, about why communities put so much emphasis on sports and their athletic facilities. Whether that be a new gym, the need for two high-level softball fields right next to each other, or the importance of having fully functioning lights for a baseball field, but hosting tournaments like we will see this weekend will give us the opportunity to highlight what living in the middle of lakes country is really about.

Hosting the tournaments will also provide a nice little economic boost to our area as each team brings with it players, fans and parents to our area. These people will need to eat somewhere, get groceries, gas and visit places to kick back and relax when they aren’t at the ball fields each day. 

Will this weekend be an economic boon for our area? Probably not, but any little bit of additional business this time of the year is a welcome sight as the small businesses that make up the fabric of our communities continue to struggle with high inflation and the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the other rather unique benefits of hosting the Babe Ruth region tournament and the state Legion softball tournament comes down to the kids on the teams themselves. Both the NY Mills softball team and the OTC Babe Ruth baseball team received an automatic berth in each of the tournaments. That means our youth will be able to compete for the right to advance to the Babe Ruth national tournament and the second ever state Legion softball championship—all because we have communities that have supported expansive projects at our athletic complexes. 

There is still plenty of work and upgrades that can be done at some of our athletic complexes and parks in the area, but this weekend should be a reminder that with the right vision and some dedicated volunteers, anything is possible. After all, to have two remarkable tournaments being held just 20 miles apart on the same weekend should just reinforce the fact that famous line from the Field of Dreams, “if you built it they will come.”