Kevin Schnepf, Published July 29 2010
Remarkable district run adds to history of Ada's Legion programIt was only a game of baseball. Nonetheless, 65-year-old Roger Niebeling was spotted with tears rolling down his face.
Niebeling, the director of the Ada (Minn.) American Legion baseball program, just saw his team produce an unlikely run to win last week’s District 9 championship.
With its 16-10 title win over Hawley, Ada earned its first trip to the Minnesota Division II state tournament that begins Friday in Dilworth.
“After we won that game, I was shaking hands and hugging the boys,” Niebling said. “Then all of a sudden one of the boys says, ‘Look, Roger is crying.’”
Tears of joy for a number of reasons.
First, Niebeling is the successor of Tony Sipe – the legendary Ada Legion baseball director who helped create the Division II state tournament in the late 1980s. Sipe, who now lives in a retirement home in Ada, was probably smiling over the news of Ada’s improbable win just as much as he was when he named Niebeling his successor in 1993.
“Tony invited me to a Legion stew,” recalled Niebeling, who occassionally helped run the scoreboard at Legion games. “Halfway through the program, he announces his retirement and says he has found his replacement. That’s when he said, ‘By the way Roger, here is your Legion card.’
“I kind of got blindsided. But it was great. I have enjoyed the run ever since.”
And what a run Ada had in last week’s District 9 tournament.
Ada entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed before knocking off South subdistrict No. 1 seed Hawley twice and North subdistrict No. 1 seed Fosston. Ada also overcame a 9-2 deficit and scored six runs in the seventh inning to claim a 15-13 win over Red Lake Falls.
“And we did this with two starters watching with casts on their hands,” Niebeling said.
“I’ve got to admit that we’ve been blessed by the baseball gods,” said Ada coach Gary Webb. “We’re just a good team that played hard and had some breaks go our way. I never would’ve guessed it. It is an overachievement, just because we are so young.”
So relying on the philsophy of patient hitting and pitchers lasting long enough to give their team a chance, Ada will take the 45-minute drive to Dilworth with a full head of steam.
“I’m honestly very happy for the community and the kids,” Webb said. “There is a lot of history here in Ada and we are just glad to be a part of it now.”
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549