By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — Rick Westfall of Athens started Small Town Baseball four years ago with 11 teams in Wisconsin.
This year about 1,000 teams in seven states participated in the organization, giving Westfall a sense that his idea to bring a big-time baseball tournament to the small towns across the country was the right thing to do.
The Small Town Baseball Wisconsin State Tournament was held June 26-28 in Marshfield, bringing 26 teams in four divisions — 10-and-under, 12U, 13U, and 14U — to town.
In two weeks, from July 17-19, about 30 teams are expected to play in the second annual Small Town Baseball World Series, which will also be held at Jack Hackman Field, Reeths Field, and the two Olson Fields at the Marshfield baseball complex on South Oak Avenue.
Teams from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin are already signed up for the event, which includes team play in the four divisions along with skill competitions on the first two days and a number of activities in which players and spectators may participate.
“I had and have kids that have played ball in small-town America, and there was nothing nationally for the small-town teams,” Westfall said. “Little League is based on big zip codes, which is fine since they have more kids playing ball, but there was nothing like this for small-town America.”
Small Town Baseball is limited to teams from towns that have 700 or fewer students in their respective four-year high schools, and all players must be from the same school. There is a provision for middle school teams (13U and 14U) that allow teams from larger towns to participate as long as all of the students are from the same school.
“These two tournaments pretty much fills up every hotel in town,” Westfall said. “Everything went great at the state tournament. It does every year. It just keeps getting bigger and better.”
Westfall said the top three teams from each of the six state tournaments that have the program — Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri, as well as some teams from Michigan — automatically qualify for the World Series. Not every team is able to make it to all the way to Marshfield for the big weekend, so provisions are made for other teams to join and fill in the field.
He also said there has been interest in having an 11U tournament, and that may be added to the festivities at the last minute.
Winners of last weekend’s state tournament were Mosinee in 14U, Marshfield in 13U, Edgar in 12U, and Baldwin-Woodville in 10U.
Find out more
Check out all Small Town Baseball has to offer at smalltownbaseball.com.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.