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Softball World Series

8/11/2004:

For those of you who haven’t heard, the “World is Coming to Fargo” this weekend and will be staying for 10 days. The world in question is of the diamond variety – the World Series of Fastpitch Softball.

This is a big deal. A very big deal. While the best of the best women will be competing in the Olympics in Athens, the best of the best men will be competing in North Dakota.

Fargo has fantastic facilities, with its Mickelson Field complex adjoining Jack Williams Stadium, with 2600 permanent seats. Since 1976, Mickelson Field complex has hosted eight National and International tournaments. The twin towns have also hosted the American Legion Baseball World Series in 1983, 1992 and 1995. But the last true world tournament was in 1985 – the Junior World Series with divisions for boys and girls 19 and under.

That said, organizers of the International Softball Congress (ISC) had never before considered Fargo-Moorhead for their annual series. The problem was that the stadium – which is the series centerpiece – was constructed for baseball, not softball.

Paul Lybeck, Executive Director of the tournament explains, “The reason the field (had) to be changed is that... baseball has 90 foot bases and a longer home run fence. The pitcher’s mound is farther back, and the infield is grass. (Softball uses) 60 foot bases, a shorter fence and our infield is (bare). Although the games are somewhat similar, the size of everything is different.”

Dave Leker, assistant director of Fargo Parks and Recreation, came up with the idea of bidding for the series, but first he and Lybeck had to convince Fargo’s American Legion baseball officials to give up the stadium one week before their season ended on July 15th so the field could be reconfigured. At first, the Legion officials were skeptical, but they finally agreed to go for it.

When the ISC surprised everybody by accepting their bid, Lybeck and Leker felt it was a win-win situation for softball, baseball and the city of Fargo. The physical changeover of Jack Williams Stadium has taken place, and Fargo’s Legion Baseball got a brand new irrigation system out of the deal.

So, starting on Friday, forty teams from around the world will begin showcasing their talents, including Amsterdam, NY and New Zealand’s national team, Broken Bow Spirit.

Pitching marvel Gerald Muizelaar, as well as last year’s MVP, third baseman Jody Eidt, will try to help the Canadian Nationals defend their championship, which they won in last year in Kimberly, WI.

Other veteran stars who will be participating include USA’s Michael White, Canada’s Darren Zack, and Mark Sorenson of New Zealand, who’ll face off against younger players like Venezuelan pitcher Lucas Mata, Australian Andrew Kirkpatrick, and Nick Underhill of Canada.

Another lower-division tournament will be simultaneously taking place, featuring 40 additional teams. The 10-day event is expected to attract up to 100,000 people.

If you go, watch for a bonus attraction – it’s been reported that a pileated woodpecker has been nesting in one of the stadium’s outfield light posts this summer.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm