Why ruin a good thing that is amateur baseball?

What better thing is there to do in the summer than drive across the area and see a local ballpark with their lights on? The field is perfectly manicured. Volunteers are eager to take your ticket and provide you with a meal and cold beverage.

That’s the simple beauty of amateur baseball across Minnesota. Its popularity right now is at an all-time high, and the numbers are there to prove it.

Region 7C and the Crow River Valley League set a new record for attendance this past tournament with 3,715. Not only was that a new record for Region 7C, it was also the highest attendance total across the state. 2,609 was the next closest. Region 7C had more than 1,000 additional fans show up and attend a game than any other region.

Baseball is alive and well in the CRVL, at least for now.

Those numbers were shared at the Oct. 22 CRVL meeting by Region 7C Commissioner Gerald “Beans” Roepke. Unfortunately for area baseball fans, it wasn’t the only thing presented.

The Minnesota Baseball Association announced it is going forward with its new points system for the 2019 season. While the idea behind the points system is understandable, the execution and reasoning behind it is flawed.

Under the new points system, both Plato and Green Isle would be moved up to Class B. The cut-off point for determining a Class C team was 49 points. Plato and Green Isle both finished with around 50-52 points.

Sure, the Irish and Bluejays could cut a player or two to get below the 49-point level, but what are we trying to accomplish here?

The Bluejays won the 2018 Class C State Tournament. It’s the second time Plato has won it in the last five years,  and the MBA state board wants to penalize them for that. The object of the points system is to control teams and see how they manage their teams.

Players that are on a team’s roster that are outside their designated school district or a 30-mile radius receive a point. Depending on the skill level those players played, a different number of points would be assigned to that player that would go to the team’s total. If the player played professionally, he would add five points. If he played Division I, it would be four points. If he played Division II, three points, and so on and so forth.

That’s all fine and dandy. If a Class C team has a Division I player on their roster that’s not from their school district, they should have a slight disadvantage when it comes to team points.

If that is what this new points system is trying to accomplish, it’s a great idea. In reality though, it’s not what it’s trying to do.

If you look at the makeup of the Plato Bluejays roster, they would have two points total for players out of their school district and 30-mile radius. Compare that to other teams in the CRVL, and it’s the lowest out of all the teams.

Trying to limit the number of players on a team from out of town is not where the system is flawed. It’s the success points that makes absolutely zero sense.

For the state board, they think that winning a state title is worth 12 points to a team’s total. Punishing a team for success and winning a state title? Isn’t that the ultimate goal of every single team in the state? It doesn’t make any sense. Oh, and even if you don’t win the state title, you’re also penalized 10 points for making it to the championship game, eight points for making it to the final four, six points for making it to the final eight, and four points for making it to the final 16.

What are we trying to accomplish here? Are we trying to get the best Class C teams out of this class and move them up? Or are we trying to regulate rosters so we don’t lose the essence of town team baseball at the Class C level.

Jeremy Stender is the general manger of KGLB 1310 AM out of Glencoe. He and his team have covered the CRVL and Region 7C tournament for more than 10 years now, and he’s deeply involved in the league, as well. For him, the system is flawed is his eyes, as well as there is no way Plato, or Green Isle for that matter, is a Class B team.

“Plato has no business being a B team,” Stender said. “They’ve been awfully successful as a C team, but that doesn’t translate to changing classes.  The Bluejays will be the first one’s to tell you they’ve benefited immensely from their draftees.  It doesn’t make what they’ve done any less impressive, but last I checked, those draftees from the 2007, 2015 and 2018 aren’t on Plato’s team.”

If you take a look at Plato’s state title run this past summer, you’ll see how much had to bounce their way. The Bluejays opened the tournament with back-to-back 1-0 wins in which the game could have gone either way. It took a strange bounce on a ground ball in the bottom of the ninth just for the Bluejays to beat Faribault.

As the tournament went on, the Bluejays relied on their draftees, Pat Tschida, Cody Hallahan, and Mac Zachow. Like Stender said, if it wasn’t for the draftees, there’s no way Plato would have had the pitching to make the run they did. It’s not Plato’s fault the CRVL is filled with talented pitchers that can help them in the postseason. It’s a perk of battling in a tough league.

Go back to 2015, when the Bluejays won the title, and you can see they rode their draftees once again. Tony Kley and the Winsted Wildcats didn’t make the state tournament, and that allowed Kley to be drafted by the Bluejays. Kley, who’s one of the top pitchers the state has seen in years, if not ever, ended up winning the tournament MVP that year because of how much he pitched.

I don’t understand how using drafted players to ultimately reach a goal that every team is trying to get to should be punished. The Bluejays are full of success. They’ve done it the right way, and now we want to punish them for that and move them up a class because they are a good team?

“The reality is, if Plato moves up to Class B next season, we will see a lot of early retirements,” Stender said.  “The Bluejays’ players and fans have done the whole (Class B) thing. They hated it. (There’s) less fan engagement, farther drives, loss of rivalries, and way less income.  Those are only a few.”

If Plato and Green Isle would be moved up to Class B, not only would that be a loss for Class C, it would also be a huge loss for the CRVL and Region 7C. What Plato and Green Isle bring to the CRVL and Region 7C is impossible to put into words. They bring great baseball, and even better fan bases. They bring one of the best rivalries in the state, and if they would leave, would take the CRVL from being one of the top leagues in the state to just another league.

It’s no secret that Plato is a great team, but they’ve built it the right way. It’s a shame that the state board wants to tamper with what other teams should try and copy and build themselves.

“Probably most egregious in this whole thing is that Plato, if you took out their state tournament success of the past five years, would be one of the lowest point total teams in the entire CRVL,” Stender said.  “Two players cost them points.  Two.  But, they’ve been successful doing exactly what every amateur and town ball team should strive to be.  I guess, in the state board’s eyes, that qualifies moving up to Class B.  There’s little doubt in my mind those ‘success’ points, if you will, weren’t designed to put certain teams over the threshold.”

A promising idea by the state board has gone over the top. There’s no way Plato or Green Isle should be a Class B team. Not only would you be putting those organizations in jeopardy, the CRVL would suffer mightily as a league, as well.

Plato and Green Isle will have a chance to plead their case to the state board at the November meeting. Should they not get their points below 49, both Plato and Green Isle will be Class B teams in 2019. They both can fix their roster, as well, to get below the 49 points, but what happens when they both make the state tournament again next year? They’ll find themselves in the same position they are now, which is being punished for putting a great team together the right way.

There’s nothing better than covering the CRVL in the summer. I’ve done it three seasons now, and I love it more and more each year. I’ve even had other opportunities to move for other jobs and have chosen to stay here just because I want to continue to cover the CRVL. It’s a fantastic league with some great teams and even better people. I worry this power trip by the state board to penalize teams for being successful will not only hurt Plato and Green Isle, but also the CRVL and Region 7C as a whole.

Plato and Green Isle have the support of the rest of the CRVL. The league will be sending a letter to the state board before the November meeting stating their support for the two.

For Stender, not supporting the new points system is an easy choice, as well.

“I have a lot of respect for the members of the board,” Stender said.  “They volunteer for a thankless job.  I think they deserve a lot of credit for getting amateur baseball where it’s at today, but that doesn’t mean I’ll blindly support their decisions when I see something that makes little to no sense.  They got this wrong, in my opinion.”

2 comments

  1. Lloyd Mellberg says:

    I totally agree with your take on this matter, Mr. Stender!

  2. Karen de Boer says:

    I agree 100%. Thanks for an excellent article.

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