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Church softball league tournament set for Aug. 11

Kevin Frazier (right) is the longest-tenured player in the league, playing in every season since 1968. Submitted photo1 / 2
Sid Lindstrom sits with a plaque he was awarded by church softball league members for his efforts in turning the idea of a church-based slow-pitch softball league into reality. Submitted photo2 / 2

As summer inches its way toward a close, many of the recreational leagues from around the area have wrapped up or are nearing that point. Before the temperature starts to drop and leaves turn color, though, there is one more milestone to hit — the 50-year anniversary of the Red Wing Church Softball League.

On June 4 and 6 in 1968, the first church softball games were played in the Red Wing league created by Sid Lindstrom.

"There was nothing going on in the summer here and I wanted to play ball so I said 'Well, maybe slowpitch is something we could use here in Red Wing,'" Lindstrom said.

The primary obstacle facing Lindstrom at the time wasn't support for the league, but rather finding a way to ensure the league's best players didn't all play on the same team. Thus, the church league was born. Players on each team were required to be a member of that church's congregation and five decades later, the league is running as smoothly as ever.

Eight teams took part in the inaugural season and the number remains the same today, although Lindstrom said the league had as many as 18 teams at one point. Lindstrom ran the league for 17 years before Tim Schmitz took over.

Under Schmitz's tenure, the league evolved to where it wasn't a requirement to be a member of a church to participate in the league. But after 31 years of being the primary league organizer, Schmitz stepped down and in 2016 the Red Wing Community Education Department took over.

At the time of the transition, the league split into a recreational league and the traditional church softball league. The reasoning behind it? To balance out the teams and let players choose which league they wanted to participate in with one caveat — a player could only participate in one league.

Schmitz said finding the right balance in competition level is always a goal of the league. When the Treasure Island league disbanded, the church league saw a influx of players and it upset the balance. It leveled off over time, but he believes that splitting up into a rec and church league will be beneficial.

"Hopefully once we get back into the church league mode of it, we'll pick up other teams that have dropped out over the past couple of years," Schmitz said. "It's a strong program. I think that in another 50 years it'll still be around."

Celebration day

A celebration for the 50-year anniversary will coincide with the year-end league tournament on Saturday, Aug. 11 at A.P. Anderson Park. The day will be chock-full of events, including a double-elimination tournament, lunch and awards. The four lower division teams kick the festivities off at 8:30 a.m. and then at 9:30 a.m. the four upper division teams will take the field. At 10:30 a.m. the second round of the lower division will be held and upon completion of those games a one-hour lunch break will be provided.

At 12:30 p.m. the second round of the upper division will be played, followed by the upper and lower division consolation finals at 1:30 p.m.

A short break will take place at 2:30 p.m. in which a limited amount of hot dogs, chips, ice cream, cake and pop for the public will be provided. Schmitz hopes that during this time there can be a commemoration of the league's history by celebrating Lindstrom, longtime softball players, and recognizing other memories and achievements with a scrapbook.

Fans and family are welcome to bring any pictures or memorabilia that could be used in the 50-year scrapbook to be donated to the Goodhue County Historical Society.

At 3 p.m. the lower and upper division championships will be played and if necessary a second game is slotted in to take place at 4 p.m. Concluding the day will be an awards presentation.

Jake Pfeifer

Jake Pfeifer is a sports reporter and outdoors editor for RiverTown Multimedia. Previously, he worked at Detroit Lakes Newspapers.

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