A day after Kearney Little League swept the Minor and Major title games at the Nebraska state baseball tournament, the organization's president, Todd Herges, sent a two-page letter lauding the efforts of their hosts in Blair.
“Over the course of the past two July weekends, your Little League's all-volunteer board of directors, as well as many of their spouses, children and friends, worked together to put on a state tournament of the highest quality,” he wrote.
Blair Little League did it all on nine days notice. Smack dab in the middle of those nine days was the Northern Area Tournament, which it also hosted at the Youth Sports Complex.
The state event's move came to be when early July flooding in Kearney compromised the state tournament's original hosts' ability to provide appropriate hotel space for the visiting Little League players and their families. On July 9, Blair Little League agreed to fill-in for its peers in western Nebraska after a meeting with Little League District Administrator Dave Arkfeld.
“The next day set me into motion with planning out volunteers for press box help for two fields, (and) creating and setting game dates and times,” Blair Little League President Chris Boswell said Wednesday. He also laid out brackets and scheduled umpires.
Blair hosted the area tournament and the July 18-22 state tourney on its own dime, too. Nebraska Little League doesn't supply financial support, though it does come through with clerical help and “advisory support, such as rules interpretation,” Boswell said.
The president estimated 200 hours of volunteer work took place in the press box on top of the 100 hours in the concession stand at Wederquist Field. Older middle school and high school players also helped with field preparation. Boswell dared not count the hours spent planning for the baseball tournaments.
To keep up at the concession stand alone, 33 shifts were scheduled. A Sam's Club trip helped Blair Little League stock treats in-between the Northern Area and state tournaments.
Though Boswell hadn't yet gotten a final report on how the concession stand did financially, he did know it did well enough to pay umpires for 20 games at $100 a game with room for an additional bank deposit at the end of the tournament.
“I believe we went (through) about 200 burgers and 200 hot dogs,” Boswell said. “About 650 bottles of water and a lot of Gatorade. Plus, countless other items, most of which we sold out of.”
Sunday, July 21, rain threw another wrench into the state tournament execution for Blair Little League. Though Wederquist and Eagle Fields were unplayable, Blair Youth Softball Association President Dean Thoene offered up his organization's fields, which are on the east side of the Youth Sports Complex. Though those fields needed agri-lime to absorb some of the water in the batter's box and pitchering area, they were playable. Volunteers placed a portable mound and play continued with the American Legion Baseball Area Tournament across town postponed for the day.
“A huge thank you to Dean for the use of the field and his time,” Boswell said.
Overall, the Blair Little League president said there were too may people to thank for their efforts during both tournament weekends. For fear of forgetting someone, he opted to thank them as a whole. Boswell also thanked his wife, Brooke, his children and “my entire board of directors for their guidance and work that started in December planning for the season.”
He, like many of the volunteers, was exhausted the Monday night and Tuesday following state.
“I took my family out to dinner last night and will return to the fields next week to wrap up some remaining business,” Boswell said. “We will have a board meeting in September to have a recap and start planning for next year in October.”
Kearney Little League, meanwhile, remained thankful of Blair on its return home from the 2019 state tourney.
“Great discipline and effort — along with a strong volunteer spirit — were on clear display this past weekend by the people of Blair,” Herges wrote. “The many volunteers who pitching in for the five-plus days of the Little League State Tournament made your community proud, and are to be congratulated!”