SpamTown Challenge to begin four-day run
It was this time of year in 2004 when the Austin Greyhounds traveled to Evansville, Ind., for a summer baseball tournament.
As far as tournaments go, it was nothing special.
"It was fun and everything,'' said John Frein, "but we recognized the potential of such a tournament and figured we could take it to another level in Austin.''
Thus was born the SpamTown Challenge, the ninth annual of which will run from Thursday through Sunday at both Marcusen Park and the Riverland Complex.
"We have a better organization,'' said Frein, the tournament director and Greyhounds manager, "and also better competition. Right out of the gate, teams were happy to come here and now we find that we have to turn some of them away.
"But that's a good problem to have. I'm going to say this is the best non-state tournament in the state.''
There were eight teams in the 2005 SpamTown Challenge, 12 teams in 2006 and 16 in the six subsequent tournaments.
Teams are divided into four pools, and guaranteed three games. The pool winners play in a final four on Sunday. The semifinals are 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and the title game is at 1:30 p.m.
Both of Austin's amateur teams are entered and start tournament play on Thursday. They are in the same pool. The Blue Sox play Westmont at 5:30 p.m. and the Greyhounds take on Appleton, Wis., at 7:30 p.m., both at Marcusen Park.
Teams are entered from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. Minnetonka defeated St. Paul 6-2 last year in the championship.
Twenty seven games are scheduled for the four days. All games are seven innings. Teams need to win five games to win it all.
"The best team always wins it,'' Frein said. "By that I mean, You're going to exhaust all your talent by Sunday afternoon Pitching depth is vital.''
The tournament is more than just baseball. On Saturday night, a Marcusen Park block party is held, and in this year's case, starting right after the Blue Sox and Greyhounds play.
There's live music and for food, a hog is roasted.
"We have the room for it so why not?'' asked Frein. "Teams look forward to it.''
The party will start right around 7:30, rain or shine, or right after the Greyhounds play the Blue Sox. Both the Hounds and Blue Sox are 4-2.
There is a big party tent in case of inclimate weather.
The Rochester Royals play St. Paul at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Shakopee at 10:15 a.m. and Cedar Rapids at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.