For the first time since 2001, Sheboygan is hosting the Legion State Baseball Tournament presented by Meijer Grocery this week.
The city was supposed to run the 2020 tourney, but the pandemic cancelled it.
State was already scheduled for Plover last year, so instead of switching, Sheboygan patiently waited.
“It’s been a long time coming, countless hours, two years of planning, and now just pure excitement we finally get to host this again,” said Ryan Salm, the co-chair of the tournament and an administrator for Sheboygan Legion Baseball.
“It’s great for the community and youth baseball in Sheboygan County.”
Six North players are on the roster (Nick Herzog, Ty Voight, Drew Widder, Ian Merry, Tyler Schoessow and Kyle Wesener) and one is from South (Wyatt Hilbelink).
Eight teams will compete in the Triple A Tournament, including Sheboygan, which automatically qualifies as host.
So coach Steve Goes is hoping to sell out Wildwood Park when his team plays its first-round game at 7:45 p.m. tonight. The seven other squads were determined at regionals last weekend (after deadline).
“It puts a spotlight on high school baseball and baseball in this community,” Goes said.
“For us to be awarded the bid shows the respect that people around the state have for our legion program. And obviously the economic impact it’ll have on the city, with the hotels and restaurants, I think that’ll be a good thing for not only baseball but for the community at large, too.”
Sheboygan got off to a 1-9 start this season but is 15-12 and ranked fifth in the state entering regional play.
Part of the reason for the poor play early, according to Goes, was coaches were getting to know the boys and finding positions for them to be successful.
“The beginning of the year, we gave a lot of guys an opportunity to do some things – both in the lineup and on the mound,” he said. “As the year has gone on, guys have settled into roles that best fits their abilities and that’s helped us with our turnaround. The other reason is we have a lot of kids from the county that play in Division 3 and 4 conferences. Then you come to Legion, where you’re facing a lot of Division 1 high school players, there was an adjustment period.
“At the plate, some of our guys weren’t used to seeing that type of velocity. And on the mound, one of my pitchers remarked he can’t just throw the ball by guys anymore, he has to pitch. So it took a couple of weeks for us to gel and really get going. We’re not perfect by any means, but we’re in a much better spot now than we were a couple of weeks ago.”
Legion Post 83 uses the tournament as a fundraiser for its teams, as all the proceeds stay within the program to pay for new uniforms and equipment, or food on the road or even hotel stays.
“To run a program of this magnitude, it sets the tone for future Legion ballplayers,” Salm said.
The championship round for the double-elimination tourney is on Saturday. The game is at noon, and Game 2, if needed, is at 3:00.
The ticket cost for any game is $10 or $30 for a week pass, and it includes a coupon for the concession stand.
There are discounted tickets for senior citizens and those under 17, and anyone under 5 is free.
Admission is also free for any Sheboygan County Youth Baseball player wearing a jersey with an adult.