Class 'A' - We are not renagades

Sitting across the desk from Shawn Vellek in his General Sports office one can get a great feel for his enthusiasm for the game of baseball.  There are pictures of all kinds of Minnesota baseball teams-Augsburg college, St. Louis Park, the Gophers and many others.  There is also a picture of the Olson twins, Mary Kate and Ashley, but that's another story.

Vellek is an umpire, sports equipment salesman, and a Class "A" Commissioner.  He came to Minnesota in 1985 and started umpiring amateur baseball immediately.  He has umpired over 100 State Tournament games and even been a site supervisor of umpires for the tournament.  For the last eleven years he has been the commissioner of the Riverview League that has produced the Class "A" Champion six of the last seven years.  Five of those years it has been Minnetonka, generally acknowledged as the best team in Minnesota, with the other being the 2002 "A" Champs St. Louis Park.

Shawn Vellek

He recently met with the other "A" commissioners, Harry Harrison from Minneapolis, Robin Johnson from the Skyline, and Andre LaNoue with the St. Paul Municipal League.  They were planning for their 2008 State Class "A" Tournament.  Vellek says that one of the things that was agreed upon in their meeting was that Class "A" needs more involvement from the State Association.  "We play by the same rules, but don't get the same rewards," he stated.  "We do exactly the same things that every "B" or "C" team does," he explained and the "A" tournament doesn't get Board support financially or publicity wise as the B/C tournament does.  The "A" commissioners think this should change.

Shawn expounded on the ever increasing costs of playing baseball in the metro area.  Some of the costs cited were the fees charged to each participating team.  In St. Paul each team pays $500 just to play twenty games.  There are only three fields available for those games with each team getting to play at Midway one game.  In Minneapolis, the fee is $2500 and the teams have dropped from 14 to 10 because of it.  Minneapolis also has only three fields available.  The Riverview has it a little better as all of their eleven teams have lights.  They do, however, have to pay approximately $100 per night to play on their city fields.  None of the fees for any of the leagues includes umpires.  "We don't have concession stands and the other funding that most "B" and "C" teams do so the players have to fund most of this themselves," said Vellek.

State Tournament fees are even more demanding.  The cost to rent Parade Stadium in Minneapolis is $100 per hour plus 20% of all income plus lights, city workers fees and parking.  "It is not unusual to have $2500 worth of expenses for one weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday tournament play.  Without the great help of Minnetonka, Shakopee and the Schlepers last year our tournament would have lost money," said Vellek.

One of the things Class "A" is changing is their status.  They are in the process of forming a non-profit group which will help their fundraising efforts and pay some of the ever-increasing expenses associated with having a State Tournament.   Does this mean that Class "A" would go it alone and not be a part of the MBA?  "We could absolutely go it alone," stated Vellek, however, he also stressed that that is not their intention.  "We want the Board of Directors to realize that we are not renegades," he said.  "We are organized, have all of our required meetings and meet all the mandated regulations.  Our guys go through a lot to play here and they should get the respect they deserve.  That includes help with our State Tournament."

"We have developed wonderful relationships with many B and "C" teams and want that to continue.  We even have some of those teams come to the city to play," said Vellek, "and we appreciate the help from the Board secretary-treasurer Bob Zellmann.  He has been a wealth of information for all of Class "A."

This year the Class "A" State Tournament is scheduled for August 6th through the 17th.  It will be a twelve team double elimination.  Play will start at Minnetonka, then go to Midway Stadium and finish up at Dunning.

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