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Kevin Schnepf, Published July 29 2010

D-G-F relishes opportunity to host prestigious state Legion tournament

Al Krueger fondly remembers “that old guy” who always sat on the bench at Dilworth American Legion baseball games.

It was in the mid-1980s when Krueger was a Legion player for nearby Barnesville. Whenever they traveled to Dilworth, he would spot Bob Marshall on his perch near the Dilworth dugout.

“He was always there,” Krueger recalled. “He was just a fixture.”

A fixture indeed.

Marshall, who played for Dilworth from 1931-33, was Dilworth’s coach and manager for 30 years. He became the director of District 9 Legion baseball before becoming the director of the Minnesota American Legion baseball program from 1967 to 1981 – the longest tenure for any department director.

Now deceased, Marshall will be smiling down on Dilworth on Friday – when the Minnesota Division II Legion state tournament starts on Bob Marshall Field.

And coaching from the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton dugout will be Krueger, who has learned a lot more about the legendary Bob Marshall.

“He had three interests in life,” Krueger said, referring to his job at the local railroad yard and fathering a family of three sons and one daughter with wife, Arlien. “The third thing was baseball. He loved every kind of baseball … the Twins, Legion, you name it.”

Marshall loved small-town baseball so much, he helped spark interest in developing a separate state tournament for the smaller programs. Thanks to lobbying by state Legion committee members like Tony Sipe of Ada and Rueben Nathe of Litchfield, this week’s Division II state tournament quietly got its start in 1987 in Barnesville.

There were four teams playing in what Nathe called a test run. And on the field umpiring at second base was Krueger – the Barnesville player who knew so little about Marshall back then.

“That was the start of it,” Krueger said. “Then in 1988, it started to be what it is today.”

Until 1995, Division I and Division II state tournaments were held at the same sites. That’s when Litchfield and Hutchinson hosted the first Division II tournament that was on its own.

“It just seemed like we were second fiddle to Division I,” Nathe said. “Some of the larger communities were fighting the change quite hard. They thought it would take some of the money away from them.

“There was a lot of negotiating and compromising. I think it’s gone over really good. I think it has spurred the interest of Legion baseball in these smaller communities.”

Like Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton – whose Legion team earned a spot in the tournament as the host.

“We wanted to get in this tournament as district champs,” Krueger said. “We had a good enough team to win our district, we just didn’t hit the ball well enough. Hopefully, we can prove we are a state-caliber team.”

Ironically, Ada – home of Tony Sipe – also earned a berth into the state tournament by winning the district title DGF coveted as the No. 4 seed.

“That’s the best story of the tournament,” Krueger said. “To have Tony Sipe’s program finally make it to state when it is actually held in our district 30 miles away. That’s a great story.”

A story that will be repeated often this weekend at Bob Marshall Field.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com