This end-of-August weekend marks the end of baseball's brief stay in the summer spotlight. In the week ahead, the Gophers open, the Vikings set their roster, the preps start up, and football's kingship is back in full force.
Before the spotlight dimmed, the Twins returned to Target Field, appearing to be running on empty, while the Ada A's gassed up and headed 300 miles southeast to resume a long-shot bid for glory in the state Class C amateur tournament.
DUNDAS, MINN. – This was a number of years ago and the hamlet of Hamburg was a co-host for the state amateur baseball tournament.
A visitor offered a "nice crowd'' to one of the Hamburg baseball people. "Not bad, but we could've had Richmond here, and it got beat,'' he said. "That team brought people in buses and they were fantastic beer drinkers.''
A key to success making the investment required to host the Class B and Class C tournaments — particularly C — is to move a lot of canned beer over three weekends.
Prices are always reasonable, and yet beer has traditionally remained the No. 1 profit item at the concession stands in these wonderful rural ballparks. And the number of thirsty fans for individual games are basically based on proximity and tradition.
The Plato Blue Jays arrived at the C tournament last Sunday with both of those assets: a touch over an hour to drive to either Faribault or Dundas, and a rich tradition of townball success.
It came to pass on that afternoon in Faribault that the Ada A's, representing a village of 1,600 located 300 miles to the northwest, rallied to defeat Plato 5-4, with Ethan Opsahl pitching four innings of one-run relief, and also driving in three runs.
Keith Hanson, now 50 and managing the A's since he was 19, and the Fetting brothers — Blake, Beau, Brett and Braiden — were standing near a ballfield in Northfield, hoping for a chance to take pregame batting practice, around noon Saturday.
I expressed this opinion: "Deep in their hearts, my guess is the hosts would've preferred a Plato victory in the interest of beer sales.''
Blake, the oldest Fetting in the A's lineup, laughed and said: "That's always the case. That's what makes it fun to be back again this weekend.''
There were 12 players (including emergency fill-in Hanson), devoted helper Mike Erickson and a couple of companions making the five-hour drive in five vehicles on Friday.
The A's were supposed to be playing the Jordan Brewers (talk about proximity and townball tradition) at 1 p.m. Saturday, but there was a rain delay for an earlier game of more than two hours.
This meant a well-delayed arrival back in the Norman County seat on Saturday night. No problem for townball's long travelers.
"We were in the 2014 tournament in Jordan, we played Hinckley in a rain-delayed game and got back home at 4 in the morning,'' Blake Fetting said. "That was fine because we won.''
That year, Opsahl — still the all-time strikeout leader at Dakota Wesleyan University — went 15 innings to beat Roseau in a regional tournament. These days, Hanson's preferred strategy is to start young Jason Sanders, and bring in Opsahl in the middle innings if there's a chance at victory.
How many fans made the drive from Norman County to cheer on the A's? Laughter again. "We won't add much to ticket sales,'' Hanson said.
What do you draw for a home game — 100? Louder laughter.
"There's a beer garden at the Norman County Fair in the third week of June, and they allow us to run that,'' Hanson said. "That takes care of most of our expenses.''
Beer and baseball. Always works.
Yet, how do you keep it going with a dozen players?
"We have three Resnicks — Zepher, Sunny and Riley — and the four Fettings, and there's seven for every game,'' Hanson said. "And there's another Fetting in high school.
"What I say is, 'We'll be good as long as the Fettings don't move out of town.' "
UPDATE: Brett Fetting sped home from second on brother Blake's single to give Ada a 1-0 lead. Brother Braiden in center made an outstanding catch and a tremendous throw home to briefly stifle Jordan. In the end, it was the A's stifled, 5-1, by Nate Beckman's complete game and Joe Lucas' three RBI for the Brewers.
Back to Ada headed the A's, 12 strong, and knowing they gave baseball their best shot in the summer of 2022.