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Chris Aarhus / Forum News Service, Published August 06 2013

Third class in North Dakota Legion baseball being mulled over

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – An idea floating around American Legion baseball circles in North Dakota may have legs.

Talk of a third division continues to heat up, and the secretary of the Legion athletic committee Jake Raile said there has been some discussion of having a separate class for small Class A schools such as Jamestown, Valley City, Wahpeton and Devils Lake.

Raile called the discussion “preliminary.” However, he did say North Dakota summer baseball faces a growing problem between the declining population of small towns and the increasing population of the state’s biggest cities.

“North Dakota’s population is growing, but it’s not growing in the rural areas,” Raile said. “The bigger areas are getting bigger, and the smaller areas are getting smaller. The group in the middle doesn’t know where to go. We need to find something that satisfies the group in the middle without hurting the top and bottom.”

The source of it is unknown, but the idea is to have two eight-team divisions atop North Dakota, with the rest being Class B. Juniors is also a division of Legion baseball, but is only for 15- and 16-year-olds in Class A towns.

Basing it on population or by school enrollment, the top division would have Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot, West Fargo, Mandan, Dickinson and Williston. The second division would feature Jamestown, Valley City, Devils Lake, Wahpeton and four large Class B schools like Grafton or Casselton.

Raile said any discussion is premature right now, but said it could be one of the items brought up when the committee meets sometime in late October or early November.

It’s certainly an idea with dissenting opinions.

Grafton coach Chad Kliniske opposes having to move to a middle class. Kliniske, whose team is fresh off winning its second straight Class B state championship, said it’s not about the level of competition. He estimated his summer program runs on around $8,000 and said to make regular trips to towns like Wahpeton and Jamestown, there would need to be some influx of cash to keep the program running.

“We spend that easily on travel costs, coaches, umpires and equipment,” Kliniske said. “I try not to get player fees out of my kids.

“My kids are all farm kids; I think we have three kids that have fathers that don’t farm and two of them have ag-related jobs. To ask those kids to take off and go to Wahpeton for a doubleheader on a Wednesday ... I don’t know if I’d find enough players to do that.”

In favor of another division is Wahpeton coach Chris Kappes, whose team was bumped up to Class A after spending two years at the Class B level. Wahpeton finished sixth out of 10 teams in the regular season and was 2-2 at state.

Kappes said Wahpeton more adequately compares to Grafton than Fargo.

“The thing with Wahpeton is we can compete every 10-12 years to where we bring a team through a two-to-three year cycle,” Kappes said. “After that, we’ll be a doormat in Class A. Within a couple summers, it’ll be hard for us to fill a team again.”

Aarhus writes for the Jamestown Sun