When Marshall VFW Orange and Worthington open play for the Marshall VFW baseball tournament at 4 p.m. Friday, the two teams will end a nearly eight-year drought. Not a precipitation drought, though the teams would appreciate clear skies for their game at Southwest Minnesota State University's Alumni Field, but rather an eight-year hiatus since the city of Marshall last hosted a VFW baseball tournament.
The last tournament at the VFW level to take place in Marshall was the 2005 VFW State Tournament.
Marshall VFW Blue will also take part in the tournament, closing out Day 1 competition with a 7:30 p.m. game against Sioux Falls West (S.D.) at Legion Field.
Blue head coach Chace Pollock was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the new tournament, which took shape over the past year. Pollock is hoping that the 2013 tournament is the first of many to come and noted that a tournament in Marshall is not only good for the local teams, but also VFW teams from across the region.
"It's far less travel for our kids and parents than to go to another tournament somewhere else. Second of all, there are a lot of people out there, not only in southwest Minnesota, but the whole region that want to come play on the field," Pollock said. "If the tournament's out there, we're definitely going to get some people that are interested."
Joining the two Marshall teams in the eight-team field are both Sioux Falls West and East, as well as Watertown (S.D.), Worthington, Willmar and Alexandria.
All familiar foes to Marshall's summer baseball teams, Pollock said that the teams expressed interest in the tournament before it was officially scheduled.
"All of this kind of started at the end of the summer (of 2012). As soon as I decided that I wanted to coach Blue, I kind of got the ball rolling," Pollock said. "Some teams, South Dakota teams, call to schedule games almost a summer in advance. They were calling in September and I kicked the idea around to them and the guy over there said he'd send both teams over. From there, I just went down the list.
"To be honest, I don't think we had one person say no when we asked to do the tournament," Pollock added. "A couple of teams just by word of mouth called about it and the last team to fill it was Worthington. It was an e-mail sent out and about two minutes later it was a done deal."
Games played on Friday and Saturday are all part of pool play. Pool A features Marshall Blue, Sioux Falls West, Willmar and Watertown. Pool B is comprised of Marshall Orange, Alexandria, Sioux Falls East and Worthington. The top two teams in each pool play in the championship bracket Sunday morning at Legion Field. The consolation bracket, for the third- and fourth-place teams in each pool, will take place at Alumni Field.
With the schedule set, the teams just need the weather to cooperate.
"A successful tournament first depends on good weather, and we haven't had a ton of that of late," Pollock said. "With the two fields in town, hopefully they are able to hold the water. Second of all, I hope that it's a good way to recognize the VFW in Marshall and their support of Marshall baseball. That's the biggest thing. With the VFW and their support, especially this year, really stepping up and supporting baseball in Marshall; those guys at the VFW have done a great job."
On the field, Pollock is excited about the challenge his team will face over the three days.
"We open against Sioux Falls West, who beat us twice down in Sioux Falls by one run each game. We were up 7-0 and 6-1 in each ballgame," Pollock said. "I think they're 18-3 so they're going to come in with a good team. We're going to have to play well that first game if we're going to have a chance of getting into that winner's side."
Friday night will also serve as VFW Appreciation Night at Legion Field. Any VFW veterans that wish to attend Marshall Blue's 7:30 p.m. game will be admitted free. The colors will be presented prior to the game, while veteran Lance Dorschner will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The starting time is tentative, however, as the Marshall-Sioux Falls West game will begin following the conclusion of Willmar vs. Watertown (scheduled for a 5 p.m start).