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Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

Trio of Grand Lake area teams to play at Fifth Third Field in Dayton

By Gary R. Rasberry
The chances for any high school baseball player to play at any level of professional baseball is very slight.
But for three local baseball teams, the chance to play at the professional baseball stadium is coming up in a week.
Minster, Marion Local and New Bremen will get the chance to play at Fifth Third Field, the home field for the Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League, on April 15 as part of an afternoon doubleheader.
The first game will feature Minster and Marion Local playing a Midwest Athletic Conference game at 3:30 p.m. while New Bremen and Fort Loramie will play the nightcap at roughly 7:30 p.m.
The Dragons, a Single A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, allows Miami Valley high school and some college baseball teams the opportunity to play games at the facility on dates when the Dragons are on the road.
The chance for the Wildcats and Flyers to play at Fifth Third came about because of contacts that Minster coach Mike Wiss had with the Dragons' organization.
"I knew other schools have had the chance," said Wiss. "Several years ago, we tried to play at Cooper Stadium (in Columbus). They had Astroturf at the time and allowed a lot of teams to play (the game was canceled due to weather). I looked at Victory Field (home of the Indianapolis Indians) and the Toledo Mud Hens.
"Today, you're not going to get something for nothing. Dayton gave us the best opportunity to play."
In New Bremen's case, it was a call from Fort Loramie coach Bill Sturwold to Cardinals coach Justin Firks that got the ball rolling.
"He said since we have them in the opening round of the Fort Loramie Invitational, it would be a great opportunity to compete at a great facility," said Firks.
The price to use the field for each team is to sell 250 tickets to an upcoming Dragons game, and in return, the team can use the Fifth Third Field facilities, bring their own announcers and have free admission to the game.
The chance to play helped motivate the players into selling tickets.
"Ticket sales have been going great. That's a response to how the kids reacted in finding out," said Firks. "For most of them, it's the nicest diamond they'll ever play on."
Once the chance was there, Wiss began to look for a team already on the schedule willing to move the game to Dayton.
"One of the first calls I made was to Marion Local," said Wiss. "They're right next to us. It takes away a home league game from Marion. I talked to (athletic director) Stan Wilker, who talked to (head coach) Greg Bruns. Within a day or two, they both said it sounded great."
"Once Stan said it was okay, we were excited about it," said Bruns. "I know a few years after I graduated, Marion got to go with coach (Bill) Cheslock to (Cooper) Stadium and played St. Henry. I still talk to a couple of the guys who played in that game. They talk about the experience and the fun they had going to play on that large of a diamond."
The four schools did not know until the schedule came out that they would be playing the same day.
Firks thinks that it's appropriate that the schools, all located next to each other, will play on the same day.
"Absolutely. Look at the MAC and Shelby County League (Fort Loramie's affiliation), these schools are about 15-20 miles within each other," said Firks. "You get an opportunity to play against a great team like Fort Loramie and bring a lot of fans to compete at a great facility, one of the nicest facilities you can get a chance to play on."
The chance to play on the field takes Wiss back to his college days playing for the University of Dayton, when teams would play in larger venues.
"I'm sure it will take me back to the nice fields I played on back in college. In college baseball you get the opportunity to travel a bit and to play at some beautiful facilities," said Wiss. "(Fifth Third) is one of the nicest Single-A facilities, from what people say one, in the country."
Bruns feels it will be like playing at the state final four, which is played at Cooper Stadium this season before moving to Huntington Field near Nationwide Arena next season.
"The only way (some) would get to experience that is playing in the state finals," said Bruns. "That's everyone's goal. I'm looking forward to letting the kids get out there and play and give them that opportunity."
Firks feels doubly honored. Not only will his Cardinals play at Fifth Third, they'll have the chance, playing the 7 p.m. game, of playing under the lights.
"We don't get the opportunity often to play under the nights, mainly in the summer," said Firks. "It gives you that Major League atmosphere under the lights with a nice crowd on a Sunday evening. Hopefully, the kids respond to it."
With all four schools involved being close in proximity and all having good rivalries with each other, Wiss thinks there will be a sizable crowd.
"I know there's a couple people in town looking to putting together a couple of buses," said Wiss. "It's going to a neat experience."
Even though the players will have a good time, Wiss will remind his team that it is still a MAC contest.
"We need to keep in mind that it is a MAC game," said Wiss. "We want to treat it as such. You want to go down, have fun and give our student athletes a great experience. Some of them may never get the chance again."

Games in Dayton:
When: April 15.

Where: Fifth Third Field, in Dayton

First game: Minster vs. Marion Local at 3:30 p.m.

Second game: New Bremen vs. Fort Loramie at 7 p.m.
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