New dugouts dedicated after tornado

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jessi Piel celebrates in the dugout after the last out of the U14 Austin Local 9’s 14-5 win during the annual softball Twister Tourney. New dugouts were dedicated Saturday after being destroyed by a tornado on June 17, 2009. - Jason Schoonover/

It took two years, but tornado cleanup at Todd Park is just about over.

Two years and two days after a tornado ripped apart bleachers and destroyed facilities at the park’s softball diamonds, new dugouts were dedicated during the second annual Twister Tourney Saturday.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Kim Underwood, Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry director, who noted they’re still planting trees at the park.

Kim Underwood, director of Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry, announces the dedication of new dugouts at Todd Park during a softball tournament. - Jason Schoonover/

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The new dugouts at the park were completed this spring, largely thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund.

“We’re just really grateful to the Twins organization,” said Tina Strauss, Austin High School’s softball coach.

Strauss said the new dugouts make for a better and safer complex. Fenced in on deck circles have been added to comply with new state high school league rules. On deck batters now must be in a fenced in area or behind the batter to be safe from foul balls. The rules are different during summer league, but officials expect the trend to catch on.

“I think in the long run, it’s going to be a great safety factor for kids,” Underwood said.

The additions at Todd Park have caught the eye of opposing coaches.

“They think it’s going to be a really great thing,” Strauss said.

The June 17, 2009, tornado caused more than $30,000 of damage at Todd Park. Along with the new bleachers and new dugouts, more than 100 trees have been planted at the park.

On Saturday, 29 teams played in the Twister Tourney. The Father’s Day Tournament, which dates back to the 1980s, was canceled in 2009 just days after the tornado.

But fields at Todd Park weren’t empty for long, as games were played the very next weekend. The annual tournament returned in 2010 with a new name.