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home : columns : columns June 25, 2016

2/27/2013 9:30:00 AM
Baseball's winter 'meeting'
Before anyone thinks I was a member of the press staking out Major League Baseball's winter meetings, I wasn't.
You'll notice that the headline says "meeting," as in singular.
This "meeting" was not held in a five-star hotel with the who's who of baseball owners and management milling around the hotel's bar and lobby.
No, this baseball winter meeting was held at the Grain Exchange in Slayton amid the usual Sunday noon revelry of those enjoying choosing to eat out on Sunday rather than fixing a meal at home. And, of course, there were NASCAR fans dining on the sport's biggest race of the year on big screen TVs throughout the restaurant.
Nevertheless, baseball was the talk of the day among about a dozen-and-a-half men who gathered for the First Nite and Gopher League preseason meeting.
Yes, the amateur baseball season in this corner of the state is still more than 2½ months away, but the league's managers got together to get the season started.
It was my first time attending the meeting as a representative of the Windom Pirates and I must say it was at times serious, other times jovial and other times an opportunity to poke a little fun at one another. But, all-in-all, it was a productive meeting and one that has produced few changes from 2012.
Indeed, a number of issues were apparently ironed at last year's meeting, which made the 2½-hour meeting on Sunday rather relaxed and very business-like.
So, what was discussed, you ask, at this "winter meeting?"
Everything from league rules to rosters to schedules to tournament formats to baseballs, umpires and opponents. Scott Bahr of Jackson directed the meeting and, for the most part, kept everyone focused on business, never letting the conversation deviate from the matter at hand.
So, what was decided?
Here's a few things that you'll find interesting as you look forward to watching your local team play in the Gopher and First Nite leagues:
•  Perhaps the biggest news of the day came from Mt. Lake where the Lakers have decided to drop out of the league this year. The team had difficulty getting commitments from players to play this season and, consequently, decided to bow out for a year. The leagues certainly hope the Lakers regroup and are back next year.
•  Meanwhile, the league removed first-year teams Worthington and Lakefield from probationary status - they were only on probation because they were first-year teams - and welcomed them to the league.
•  With Mt. Lake dropping out, that leaves 15 teams in the two leagues - eight in the Gopher and seven in the First Nite. Scheduling will be a bit more unbalanced, giving some Gopher teams 18 games and some 16, while all First Nite teams will play 16 league games in 2013. Teams in each league will play all other teams in their league twice (home and away) and also play one game against the four (or three) teams from the other league that it didn't play last year.
•  As for post-season league play, the leagues will follow the same format they did in 2012 with one change. Because there are only seven teams in the First Nite League - which will seed their teams from 1 to 7 by number of wins, the Gopher League will seed their teams by a vote of managers with the top team receiving an automatic bye into the eight-team regional. The remaining seven teams will play the seven teams from the First Nite in best-of-three series, guaranteeing each team a home game in the playoffs. The winners move on to the region, the format of which will be decided later.
Now, this is all contingent upon any changes made by the state board which will meet next month.
Yes, it was good to talk baseball in February, but even better to do it with the Daytona 500 showing on the big screen.

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