Austin to host section baseball tourneys

Published 7:39 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Austin’s baseball diamonds hit it out of the park this year.

The city of Austin will host the section 1A and 1AA high school baseball tournaments in June. Sixteen teams from around the region will come to compete at the Riverland baseball complex for the first time in several years.

“We thought our facilities were better and would be more convenient for them.” said Valerie Pitzen, recreation supervisor for the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

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Austin has never hosted the section tournament before, although it hosted the 1A West subsection tournament several years ago. Larry Tompkins, the former superintendent of Southland Public Schools, was in charge of that tournament and was instrumental in securing Austin’s bid this year.

“I was very familiar (with the Riverland complex), and in my judgment that was the finest baseball complex in at least southeast Minnesota,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins knew the complex, which has four diamonds and a single gate to let people in, would attract a lot of attention. Yet Rochester, which is centrally located in the 1A region, hosted the tournament for several years.

That changed when Tompkins brought several coaches, coordinators and 1A executive secretary Brad Johnson to tour the facility in August. They were so impressed that all the coaches voted unanimously to switch the tournament site to Austin during the annual 1A baseball meeting in September.

“I knew that if I could get somebody to see it, it would sell itself,” Tompkins said.

The 1A and 1AA tournaments will take place during the first week of June, wrapping up on June 8. City officials and local baseball supporters hope Austin will continue to host the tournaments.

“It’s just a great facility,” Tompkins said. “A lot of good thought was put into that.”