By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield Post 54 American Legion baseball program is bringing the best teams in the state to the city.
Wisconsin American Legion Baseball has awarded the 2016 Class AAA state tournament to Marshfield, a first for the program.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament will be held July 26-30 at Jack Hackman Field, bringing seven regional winners to Marshfield with a state title and a berth in the Class AAA Great Lakes regional on the line. Marshfield Clinic Post 54, as the host team, earns an automatic bid into the tournament.
Marshfield Legion Baseball board member Mark Decker got the ball rolling last year. The Blue Devils played in the state tournament last July in Plover, and Decker said he was impressed with how that event was run. With similar facilities to Plover, Decker felt Marshfield could host a future state tournament.
“Why not try to get it here?” Decker said. “We have a nice park. We are in the center of the state, so it is easy for everyone to get here. We applied for the 2016 tournament in the fall, made a presentation at the state meeting in Portage, and found out earlier this month that we were awarded the tournament.”
A lot of work went into the presentation, which included bringing in the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Marshfield Parks and Recreation Department.
Matt McLean, director of the Marshfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the experience of putting together the bid and the execution of putting on the five-day tournament are similar to what they already do with Small Town Baseball.
Small Town Baseball will hold the Wisconsin State Tournament in Marshfield for the fourth-straight year this June and will host the World Series for the second year in a row, bringing in teams from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
“We worked with the Legion baseball program and looked at the economic benefits it could bring to Marshfield,” McLean said. “Hotels, retail, restaurants, attractions for visitors, … we started working with Mark Decker, Ed Englehart at the Parks and Rec department, who will be responsible for maintaining the facilities, and the hotels and put the bid together.
“Five days of baseball should do a good job of filling up our hotels and will bring a lot of people to the area.”
McLean said he does not have a definitive number on the total economic impact to Marshfield, but he said similar tournaments in the state can bring as much as $220,000 to $300,000 into the city’s economy.
Decker said he is constantly thinking about the tournament even though it is 18 months away. He knows it will be a big task for the Legion baseball program but has no worries that they will be able to put on a topnotch experience for the teams coming into Marshfield.
“There are always things I am jotting down, and I have a plan of attack,” Decker said. “After we get this season underway, we will really get things rolling. The state (Legion board) wants progress reports to see how things are going, so we have a lot to do. From concessions, selling shirts, admissions, scorekeepers, getting the field ready, running the scoreboard, it’s going to take a lot of people.
“All of the baseball programs in the city, the Varsho League, Marshfield Area Baseball, the Chaparrals, we will all see part of the benefits one way or another. This will bring everyone together. I really think it’s going to be good for the city.”
What: 2016 Class AAA Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Tournament
When: July 26-30, 2016
Where: Jack Hackman Field, Marshfield
Host: Marshfield Clinic Post 54 American Legion baseball
On the line: The Wisconsin Class AAA state championship and a berth in the Great Lakes Regional at Alton, Illinois. The winner of the regional moves on to the American Legion Baseball World Series in Shelby, North Carolina.