Ottawa American Legion baseball coach Shawn Herrmann has been waiting a couple years to get his team in the Kansas Grand Slam Wood Bat Tournament in Salina.
The tournament is viewed as one of the premier baseball tournaments in the Midwest because of the high quality of competition and excellent playing facilities.
The under-19 tourney features teams from Kansas and Nebraska. It runs Thursday through Sunday and is played at Dean Evans and James Matson Field.
Ottawa coach Shawn Herrmann said playing against Legion AAA teams and those from Nebraska will help his team raise its level of play as the season begins to wind down toward the postseason.
“We have games against teams we have not played yet,” he said. “There is no pressure on us. I want to get wins. It will help us.”
Herrmann likes the fact that Ottawa will have two games at Dean Evans, the site of the 4A state baseball tourney.
“It is invaluable,” he said about that experience. “We get to experience the atmosphere.”
The under-19 tourney features 10 teams with two pools of five. Each team plays a round-robin in its pool with the top two teams from each pool advancing to Sunday’s bracketed semifinals and championship games.
Ottawa’s pool consists of Kansas Crush, Millard North, Neb., Salina Falcons, and Wichita Reds.
Ottawa plays two games Friday and Saturday. Ottawa opens at 3:45 p.m. Friday at Matson against the Kansas Crush. Ottawa plays 8 p.m. against Salina at Dean Evans.
On Saturday, Ottawa faces Wichita Reds at 9 a.m. at Matson and Millard North at 3:45 p.m. on Dean Evans.
Ottawa’s Turner Roth, a five-year Legion veteran, said this type of tournament can only be beneficial to the younger players.
“I am excited,” he said. “We can play just as good as any of those teams.”
The trip has side benefits as well.
“We get to bond together,” Herrmann said. “We can definitely play at a high level.”
Ottawa is split in half with those that have played in Salina before. Ottawa has played against the Falcons in previous years and the high school team placed third in 2012, which was played in Salina.
“I love playing at Dean Evans,” Herrmann said. “It will help our underclassmen be familiar with it.”