American Legion
Minnesota Division I
State Tournament






Volume 7, No. 4 Rochester, Minnesota Sunday, August 10, 2003

And Then There Were Three . . .
Excelsior, Bloomington Blue and Rochester A's survived three days of baseball to make it to the final day of the Minnesota American Legion Division I tournanment.

For Excelsior, the road has been a little longer, as the Tonka Fire Club had to work its way through the loser's bracket to earn a slot in the Sunday morning game.

In the late game between the unbeaten teams, Rochester defeated Blooming 3-2 to automatically advance to the championship game and to earn a berth as one of Minnesota's two entries in regional tournamnents.

The game was tied 2-2 in the fourth when the A's took the lead on Cris Collins' home run. Both teams had outstanding pitching.
Bloomington will play Excelsior in the 11 a.m. semi-final game for the chance to take on Rochester in the championship final. The winner of that first game Sunday also earns a trip to a national regional.

Excelsior, with five straight victories in the loser's bracket, earned the right to play in the final day of the tournament by defeating Cold Spring 12-8 and New Ulm 7-3. Cold Spring defeated the Rochester Redhawks 11-1.

The tournament winds up today with a semi-final game at 11 a.m. and the final game at 2 p.m.

New Ulm, despite being eliminated from the tournament, will be the host for the regional tourney slated for New
Ulm Aug. 14-18. The other national regional for a Minnesota team will be held in Midland, Michigan. The World Series will be played in Bartlesville, OK, beginning Aug. 22.

Last year's state champion was Apple Valley, with Excelsior the runner-up.

The site for next year's tournament has not yet been determined.

Minnesota has had three national champions: Richfield in 1943, Edina in 1983 and Tri-City Red in 1999. Excelsior was the runner-up this past year.

Rochester has hosted the state tournament three times, 1938, 2001 and this year.
Coach of the Year Peck Winds Up a 30-Year Career By John Sherman
Jim Peck, coach of the Excelsior American Legion Baseball team, called a parents' meeting early in his career and proposed that the team take a trip to a tournament in Ogden, Utah. "Eighty percent of the parents were opposed to it, but, after some convincing, they made a commitment to do it and we've been traveling ever since," said Peck.

For the past 29 years, Excelsior players have been paid to deliver phone books in the Minnetonka area. "The project teaches the players the importance of reliability," Peck said. And it raises money to cover travel costs.

Peck, who has coached the Fire Club for 30 years, has taken his players to destinations all over the world, including, Hawaii, Holland and Australia.

His biggest fundraiser is a hot-stove banquet in late January. Last year, the team raised $75,000 by selling 500 tickets at $150.

"We got the banquet idea from Cherry Creek High School in Colorado," said Peck. "We bring in a speaker each year to talk about baseball. We've had Brooks Robinson, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Skip Bertman, just some great baseball people. The speakers are only part of the appeal. People really seem to enjoy the camaraderie of a winter baseball function."

Peck enjoys banquets anytime of the year, as long as the focus is on baseball. On Wednesday night at the Mayo Civic Center Auditorium, he attended the American Legion State Tournament banquet. That night he received the Minnesota American Legion Coach of the Year Award.

"It's very nice to be honored by my peers," said Peck, who coached the Fire Club to a runner-up finish in the American Legion World Series in 2002. "I have coached a lot of great players over the years and the coaches I've worked with have had a lot to do with our success."

Peck has announced that this will be his last season on the field, although he will continue helping the Fire Club as general manager. Prior to coming to the Legion program in 1974, Peck coached 10 years of Babe Ruth Baseball. He won a state championship in 1973.

This summer Peck passed a milestone that has never been achieved in Minnesota youth baseball. He won his 1,300th game.

Peck has earned the respect of American Legion directors and coaches during his 30-year tenure.

"Jim has been a very dedicated coach and manager," said past American Legion Baseball Director George Karnas. "He runs one of the most successful and ambitious programs in the country. Baseball people all over the country respect him."

Jim is a member of the American Baseball Coaches' Hall of Fame," said Fifth District Legion Baseball director Nick Kakos. "He is extremely dedicated to youth baseball and providing opportunities for all youth, and he brings a high degree of character to the American Legion program."

Darwin Berg, Minnesota's American Legion Baseball Director, said, "I don't know of anyone who deserves the Coach of the Year Award more than Jim. The award doesn't just recognize one season, but Jim's entire career. He has done a good job of running our Minnesota 16-year-old Legion program. This is his last year of coaching, but I am sure he's not done making contributions to the program."

Bruce Young, coach of the Apple Valley 76ers American Legion team, gives an opponents\rquote perspective on Peck."

Jim's program is the standard by which all others are measured," said Young. "It's not just wins and losses, but the way Jim teaches life lessons and builds character in his players. Year after year, he makes a difference in the lives of young people as a trusted friend and as a role model. Really, isn't that what this is all about?"

Rochester's Hosts Excel,
2nd Time in Three Years
By John Sherman
Rochester was a hotbed for American Legion Baseball even before Keith Kangas took over as coach of the Rochester A\rquote s in 1981, but now the local Legion program has really hit a peak.

The community is hosting the State Legion Tournament for the second time in three years and the Rochester A's go into the final day of play as one of three teams in the running for the championship.

"I know the number of hours of work that go into preparing for a tournament like this," said State American Legion Baseball Director Darwin Berg. "Whenever we have needed something this week, someone from the host committee has been available. I would like to thank all of the volunteers. Without them, the committee would not be able to function."

The local committee is led by Kangas, the A's head coach, Ed Miller, who was instrumental in the tournament's success two years ago, and Bob Lyons, a parent of two A's players.

"We bid on the regional this year, but didn't get it," said Kangas, "so we decided to try to get the state tournament instead. We had things in place to host a tournament."

The A's came into the state tourney with the best record in the state, 39-3. They were joined in the tournament field by their cross-town rivals, the Rochester Redhawks, who played well this week with a 3-2 record. The success of the Redhawks helped at the gate and also reaffirmed the quality of Legion baseball in Rochester.

The Redhawks lost to Cold Spring yesterday and finished fifth in state.

Kangas, who won the state Class AA baseball title with his Century High team this spring, said the summer success of the A's doesn't surprise him. "We have a lot of multiple-sport athletes," said Kangas. "When you put talent together with competitiveness, you\rquote ve got something special."

Ed Miller had a son (Greg) on the A's team two years ago. Even though he does not have a son playing this summer, he wanted to help make the state tourney a success.

We feel fortunate to be able to host the state tournament," he said. "It's showcasing Rochester and it's showcasing the A's. Also, it is fun to work with this group of parents. We've had a lot of help \endash and that\rquote s one of the keys."

Bob Lyons added, "A tournament like this takes a lot of time and planning. Ed does a great job of coordinating the volunteers."

State Director Berg agreed. "There were no surprises this week because the local committee did a good job of planning," he said.

The host committee is vital to the success of the State Legion Tournament, and there's another important team that contributes to the success. That is the team of District Directors and staff that works at the various tournament sites.

"Our staff has many years of experience," said Berg. "And everyone is willing to pitch in. Joe Baker [Division I Director] has been through the baseball wars. Whenever he has to make a decision, he'll make the right one."

"Whenever possible, we try to bring back retired directors to work the tournament," Berg continued. "Tom Matson and Rocky Wedin came back this year."

District Directors Jack Bloedel (Second District), Bob Zellmann (Third), George Bodlovick (Fourth), Nick Kakos (Fifth) and Bob LeTourneau (Tenth) were instrumental in the management of the State Legion Tournament.

Former State Director George Karnas helped Director Berg and the staff with his experience and wise counsel.

The state committee and the host committee have worked hand in hand to make the State Legion Tournament a smooth one.

"The crucial time for me was Thursday morning," said Ed Miller. "You only get one shot at it. The fields have to be ready, all the workers need to be in place."

Now that Thursday, Friday and Saturday are done, both committees will be on hand to enjoy the final two games on Sunday.

From the standpoint of one local committee member, there comes the vision of an ideal outcome.

"I was at Midway Stadium in St. Paul when Century won the high school state championship," said Lyons. "The kids jumped on each other on the mound when it was all over. I'd sure like to see that happen again on Sunday - this time in front of a home crowd."
A's Come Through in Clutch, Beat Blue 3-2
by John Sherman

In the State Legion Baseball Tournament, it's all about clutch play.

The Rochester A's stepped up big in a 3-2 win over Bloomington Blue in the winners-bracket final at Mayo Field on Saturday night. A crowd of 300 cheered a fine game between two teams who have been ranked in the top 10 in the state poll for the entire season.

While many of the A's made clutch plays, two stood out. Cris Collins hit his third home run of the season in the fourth inning for the margin of victory. Relief pitcher Mike Badger mowed down Blue 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth for a save.

"It was a well played game on both sides," said A's manager Keith Kangas. "It was a great atmosphere for baseball and it was extra special because we won in front of our home town fans.

"There wasn't anything special about my home run, except that this game meant more than most," said Collins. "I hit it just above the target in left-center, about halfway up the light pole. We played our game tonight. We're a team that's baseball smart, and when we're in trouble, we find a way to win."

Badger, affectionately known as "Hoss" to A's teammates and fans, came up big in the ninth. He had a 3-2 count on the first hitter, then struck him out with a fastball. After the second batter grounded out, he got the closing strikeout on a called strike three.

"I rarely walk a batter," said Badger. "On 3-2, I threw a fastball over the plate. When you're in a game like this, it's pretty intense. But I like it when the game is riding on my shoulders."

The A's will play in the state championship game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mayo Field. They will carry a 43-3 record into the game.

Stars of the Day, Saturday

Mike Burtzel - Cold Spring:
In a stellar two-way performance, he was the winning pitcher and went four for four at the plate in an 11-1 victory over the Rochester Redhawks. He went three for four in a 12-8 loss to Excelsior later in the day.

Jamie Hoffmann - New Ulm Gold: The shortstop and clean-up batter had a single and a home run in a 7-3 loss to Excelsior.

Jeff Dolan - New Ulm Gold:
In a 7-3 loss to Excelsior, he went three for four with a walk.

Sean Kommerstad - Excelsior: The 18-year-old center fielder hit his third home run of the tournament during a 7-3 win over New Ulm Gold. He added his fourth homer in a 12-8 victory over Cold Spring.

Jake Williams - Excelsior:
The third baseman delivered a key two-run double in the eighth inning as the Fire Club advanced with a win over Cold Spring.

Cris Collins - Rochester A's:
The catcher hit a home run as his team won the winners'-bracket final game over Bloomington Blue, 3-2.

Mike Badger - Rochester A's:
The right-hander retired the side in order in the ninth inning to help his team edge Bloomington Blue.
Tonka Fire Club Keeps on Truckin'
A shoulder injury stopped Marcus McKenzie from competing for Excelsior in the State Legion Baseball Tournament yesterday, but it didn't stop him from cheering.

The Fire Club continued to roll through the losers'-bracket with its fifth straight win Saturday afternoon. Excelsior erased a 5-0 Cold Spring lead to win the elimination game 12-8.

Sean Kommerstad's three-run homer and a two-run double by Jake Williams were key blows in the Excelsior victory. Tom Policano was a consistent hitter the whole game with three hits, including a homer.

"We need one more win to make sure we keep playing [in regionals]," said Marcus McKenzie.

"We're playing the same as we played when we had Marcus," said Kommerstad. "Our mindset hasn't changed."

Kommerstad has been hitting the ball hard to right-center field throughout the tournament. But his homer against Cold Spring was pulled to left-center. "I relaxed and sat back on the pitch," he said. "I hit an off-speed pitch."

Williams, who delivered the key runs in the eighth inning, said, "We need to win our first game tomorrow. We don't have Marcus now, but we've had amazing pitching on this team all season."

Zach Peterson has shined in a relief role for the Fire Club. He did it again in the win over Cold Spring, as he allowed no runs in the last two innings.

"Zach is one of the most determined players we have," said Kommerstad.

"We were looking for a pitcher yesterday, and Zach just came up to me and said, "Give me the ball," said Excelsior coach Mark (Lunch) McKenzie.

Game Summaries, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Game 29 - Semi- Final Game
Bloomington Blue 4, Excelsior 0
Excelsior Earns 3rd Place in State Tournament

Right-hander Rob Nelson of Bloomington Blue pitched a three-hit shutout to assure his team of a berth in an American Legion Baseball Regional this week. Nelson made the key defensive play of the game himself when he whirled to second base and picked off an Excelsior base runner with two on and two out in the top of the 8th. John Vaudreuil, Bloomington Blue's 6-foot-7-inch first baseman, sparked the offense with a 3 for 4 performance. Third baseman Pat Finley had two RBIs for Blue, and Rob Leath went 2 for 4. Shortstop Steve Edlefsen made two spectacular fielding plays for the winners, and left fielder Ryan Wolf made two running catches near the foul line. The victory boosted Blue's season record to 38-12. Jim Peck, who has managed the Excelsior team for 30 years, made his final appearance in a Fire Club uniform. Excelsior finished with a season record of 38-10.

Excelsior     0 0 0   0 0 0   0 0 0         0   3   3
Bloom Blue     0 0 0   4 0 0   0 0 X         4   8   0

P. McKenzie, Bach (4), Utoft (8) and Spevacek. Nelson and Ottum. W - Nelson. L - P. McKenzie.

Game 30 - Championship
As of 5:15 p.m., FINAL

Rochester A's 8, Bloomington Blue 5 (10 innings)
Mike Badger was the winning pitcher in relief and drove in two runs with a double to the left-center field gap in the top of the 10th inning. Rochester advances to the Region 6 Tournament in New Ulm with a 44-3 record after winning five straight games in the state tournament. "Our team has stuck together all season," said Badger. "I just try to throw the ball over the plate and let my fielders make plays." Nate Bower hit a home run for the A's in the title game and went 3 for 6. Dan Lyons went two for four and had a key sacrifice bunt. Ronnie Olson scored three runs for the winners. Bloomington Blue's leader Steve Edlefsen was named Most Outstanding Player in the State Tournament. In the championship game, he went 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two stolen bases. Ryan Wolf was 2 for 4 for Blue. The Bloomington team will advance to the Region 5 Tournament this week in Midland, MI.

Rochester A's     0 0 0   1 1 2   0 1 0   3     8   12   2
Bloom Blue     0 1 2   1 0 1   0 0 0   0     5   10   3

Craig, Grant (3), Badger (8) and Collins, Craig (3). Seal, Haas (4), Olson (5), Vaudreuil (9) and Ottum. W - Badger. L - Vaudreuil. Home run: Note Bower, Rochester A's.

Game Summaries, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2003

Game 25
Cold Spring 11, Rochester Redhawks 1 (7 innings)

Mike Burtzel was a one-man wrecki ng crew for Cold Spring in a seven-inning victory over the Rochester Redhawks. Burtzel pitched a complete game and went four for four at the plate with three singles and a double. Alex Kofoed and Ryan Lieser each added two hits for Cold Spring. Jeff Homme rding hit a key double. The Redhawks finished fifth in state with a 3-2 record in state play. For the season, the Redhawks were 27-12.

Roch Redhawks     0 0 0   0 0 0   1         1   8   1
Cold Spring     0 0 4   1 5 0   1         11   12   0

Heydt, O'Reilly (5) and Wahl. Burtzel and Jonas. WP Burtzel. LP Heydt.

Game 26
Excelsior 7, New Ulm Gold 3

Excelsior eliminated New Ulm Gold Saturday morning at Mayo Field in Rochester. Sean Kommerstad hit his third home run of the tournament and also had a double for Excelsior, while Kevin Martin went two for four f or the winners. Shortstop Jamie Hoffmann hit a home run and went two for four for New Ulm Gold. Jeff Dolan went three for four for New Ulm Gold and K yle Marti added a pair of hits. Eric Utoft was the winning pitcher for Excelsior and Joe Peters of New Ulm Gold was tagged with the loss. New Ulm will advance to regionals next week as the host team with a 27-7 season record. Gold finished 2-2 in state tournament play.

New Ulm Gold     0 0 0   0 0 0   0 2 1         3   13   2
Excelsior     3 3 0   0 1 0   0 0 X         7   11   1

Peters, Kraus (8) and Thorson, Morgan (8). Utoft, Peterson (9) and Spevacek, P. McKenzie (9). W Utoft. L Peters. Home runs: Kommerstad, Excelsior, Hoffmann, New Ulm Gold.

Game 27
Excelsior 12, Cold Spring 8
Excelsior continued its journey through the losers'-bracket with its fifth consecutive victory. Home runs by Tom Policano and Sean Kommerstad were important, but the most important hit was a double by Jake Williams that produced two runs in the top of the eighth inning. Policano went three for five with two RBIs. Zach Peterson also went three for five. Mike Burtzel went three for four for the Springers, who finished the season 26-5 overall. Jeff Hommerding of Cold Spring went two for four, and teammate Ryan Bell went two for four with a home run and three RBIs.

Excelsior   0 0 0   6 0 1   0 5 0         12   17   2
Cold Spring   0 4 1   3 0 0   0 0 0         8   14   3

Ulrich, Hagan (2), Mason (4), Peterson (7) and P. McKenzie. Reif, Burtzel (6), Lieser (8), Butala (9) and Jonas. W-Mason. L-Burtzel. Home runs: Ryan Bell, Cold Spring, Tom Policano and Sean Kommerstad.

Game 28
Rochester A's 3, Bloomington Blue 2
Cris Collins's home run was the key to the A's win along with fine pitching by Jay Kasner and Mike Badger. Kasner and Badger combined on a six-hitter, while the A's made big plays behind them in the field. Ted Garry and Collins each had two hits for the winners. John Vaudreuil went three for four and Steve Edlefsen went two for four for Bloomington Blue. Dan Erdall and Arron Olson pitched for Bloomington Blue.

Bloomington Blue     0 0 2   0 0 0   0 0 0         2   6   2
Rochester A's     0 0 2   1 0 0   0 0 X         3   8   3

Erdall, Olson (8) and Ottum. Kasner, Badger (8) and Collins. W-Kasner. L-Erdall. Home run: Cris Collins, Rochester A's.



Additional Issues:

The Gazette, Thursday, August 7, 2003
The Gazette, Friday, August 8, 2003
The Gazette, Saturday, August 9, 2003
2003 State Tournament Homepage

Last updated: 8/9/03
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