Caswell Park in North Mankato is regarded as one of the premiere softball complexes of not only in Minnesota, but in the nation as well.
Since opening in 1987, Caswell Park has played host to numerous regional, state, and national tournaments.
Later this summer, the complex will be the site of both the Amateur Softball Association girls’ slowpitch national tournament (July 24-28) and the ASA national boys’/men’s fastpitch tournament (August 2-4).
This week, however, the showcase event is the annual Minnesota State High School League state girls fastpitch tournament for all three classes.
The venue started hosting the MSHSL competition in 1996 and today 24 section softball champions venture to North Mankato to do battle. Caswell Park is controlled and operated by the North Mankato Parks Department.
Getting the fields in tip-top playing shape has taken longer this year due to winter’s stubborn hold. Roger Coyour, who has worked with the NMPD since 1990, says this is one of North Mankato’s worst springs he’s seen.
“This has been a bad year for the outfield grass, but it’s slowly coming back,” he said. “When the grass started to grow, it started to rain all the time which isn’t good.”
The six diamonds the complex has are all equipped to handle large amounts of rain. There have been rain delays throughout the previous 17 state tournaments, but no games have had to be pushed back a day due to weather. That doesn't mean, however, that plans aren't in place.
“Caswell has a good drainage system and all the rain usually drains within an hour,” said NMPD Superintendent Todd Mettler. “We have the complex booked for Saturday just in case rain washes out a full day of games.”
Last Thursday, three section championship games were all scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at Caswell when two brief downpours came right after the first pitch of each contest. By 6 p.m., all games were back underway.
The park has three to four seasonal full-time crew workers responsible for re-dragging and re-striping the fields in-between games during tournaments. That number is doubled for the state tournament as the complex prepares to stage 24 games today and nine tomorrow.
What stands out about the MSHSL tournament compared to other tournaments is the numbers of tents on site. Tents are set up for umpires, first aid and for spectators on the roof near the press box.
The MSHSL supplies their own staff for announcers and official game scorers and a trailer is brought in for their use. Many workers come together to make sure the players, coaches, and fans have a great softball experience every spring.
Caswell Park has provided a top-notch experience for 17 seasons. Today, it's ready for No. 18.
Page C4 Complete preview of the state tournament