PLATO – For most organizations, the idea of adding lights to a park can be a long process. Not for the Plato Bluejays. In the span of months, the Bluejays rallied together with the community to accomplish a longtime dream. Come the 2022 season, there will be lights shining down on Bluejays Stadium for the first time ever.
“The players are as jacked as could be,” Plato manager Adam Damman said. “Not even that, I think all the Plato board members can’t get over how this happened so fast. It’s going to be a wish come true for the Plato community, players, and alumni. Nobody ever thought this would happen. There’s a lot of buzz around town.”
What started as a Plato vs. Carver game quickly turned into more. While Joel Lepel and Paul Twenge were chatting during the game, Twenge asked the question of why Plato doesn’t have lights. Known as one of the top ballparks in the state without lights, the plan to add lights was set in motion. Twenge mentioned to Lepel that the Minnetonka field was planning to get new lights. Lepel jumped on the opportunity to get the old lights from the field, and Plato was first in line to get them. After securing the funds, the wheels were in motion for the Bluejays to make a dream a reality.
“Right after the region tournament was when we knew we were going forward with it,” Damman said.
The addition of lights to Bluejay Stadium is a dream come true for those who call the place home. While Plato can certainly play night games now, it also opens up a lot more opportunities for people beyond the Bluejays.
“One of the biggest things is what else can we do with it now,” Damman said. “Granted it’s Bluejay Stadium, it’s a community field as a whole. With the school district using it and the youth teams we have, there’s going to be so many more opportunities for those kids and those programs to be able to play at that field and not have to search for another field with lights.”
With the addition of lights, the Bluejays will continue to work and make upgrades to the park itself in the hopes of someday bringing a state tournament to the town of Plato.
“When it comes to tournaments, hopefully, once we do a little more around the park with the field and cosmetic stuff, we can hopefully do something with a state tournament,” Damman said. “It’s going to allow us to do so much more.”
The Bluejays will make their debut under the new lights for the first time Saturday Night when they host the Young America Cardinals. After considering debuting on a Friday night, Plato opted to make it a full day of celebration as the Cardinals will come to town. The reason for choosing Young America to debut the lights was simple.
“We’ve had such a good rivalry with Young America,” Damman said. “They’ve become that bigger rivalry with the kids. There’s a lot of history there. That’s why we chose Young America. It stinks that they have to go up to Class B so we thought it would be pretty cool for them to be the first ones on the field.”
The addition of lights wouldn’t be possible without the help of many people and organizations. The Plato Bluejays would like to thank the following people and companies that made the addition of lights possible: the city of Plato, Security Bank & Trust, Great River Energy, McLeod County Coop, Joel Lepel, Grant Miller, Dave Whittus, Lyle Engelmann, Les Engelmann, Chris Engelmann, Dave Prehn, the Plato Bluejays board, and all those who donated to make things happen and the Plato community for the support.
For in-game updates on the matchup between the Bluejays and Young America, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter –2 @Kovar_HJSports