Dodge County League celebrates 70 years
SCRIBNER — The Dodge County baseball league turned 70 this year, which was more than enough reason for a celebration.
Not only was baseball played, but a get together also taook place for former players, coaches, fans and umpires.
The league began in 1948 with teams mostly from Dodge County but evolved into a showcase league in central Nebraska and stubbornly has survived for seven decades. The main reason? Some pretty good baseball has been played over the years.
It’s a casual, family atmosphere for those coming out to watch.
Like in this year’s tournament finals, Allie Vogt was seated down the left field line cheering on the West Point Bombers as she rooted for her fiance’, Carsten Tietz.
“We’ve had family play for the Bombers for years,” Vogt said. “It’s what we have always done and it’s a lot of fun — it keeps communities together with a common reason to be together.”
Part of the reason for the league’s longevity is that it always has stressed fairness between the teams and establishing rules to perpetuate itself.
One of the league rules, for example, states a team can only have one player on its roster who is not connected to the town the player is playing. In other words, ringers aren’t the norm.
A rule to perpetuate the league is each town can include American Legion players after its season concludes. Legion players also are allowed to play during the season if properly signed on as a Legion player and nothing that he would be on another roster during the Legion season.
The West Point Bombers invited Bryant Rief to play, an American Legion player who is coached by his grandfather, Bruce Schlecht.
Rief played first base for the Bombers in the tournament finals and was thrilled at the chance to contribute to his home team.
“I didn’t think I would even play when we got here (at the league championship) and they told me I was starting at first base,” Rief said. “I have looked up to these guys my whole life — I was their batboy and have been to a lot of their games. I was thrilled to play with these guys and look forward to coming back next year.”
The league’s survival also was added because of individuals like Rich McGill.
McGill, the former head men’s basketball coach at Midland University in Fremont and a 40-year participant in the league, was on hand for Saturday’s 70-year celebration.
“My uncles, my dad, a brother and me played for the Bombers,” McGill said. “I remember when you would go to games and the stands were full of people rooting for and against you — it was great.”
He also had some insight on how the league has survived.
“Every team had great fundamentals — they knew how to move a runner over, they knew how to bunt,” he said. “Everyone played hard because that is the type of people we have around here — play as hard as you can through the last pitch.”
Scribner, West Point and Dodge are three of the teams that have participated in the league for 70 years. The league got up to 14 teams with two divisions at one time according to Gary Eickmeier of Dodge, league secretary.
“This is a great league full of great people.” Eikmeier said. “We have always done things the right way. We have our squabbles from time to time, but we all know what it takes to make this league continue to work and we eventually work together to get it done.”
In addition to 70th anniversary celebration, there also was a game played, as the Bombers took on undefeated Wahoo. And a pretty good one, too, as the game was scoreless going into the ninth inning.
“I was not surprised when both teams were making play after play,” Bombers manager Joe Guenther said. “When a game like this is over, it’s a blast. We have a lot of fun over the summer.”
Carson Tietz spanked a double over the Wahoo left fielder’s head in the top of the inning to score Nate Bruning, who had hit a double of his own, for the Bombers and what proved to be the winning run.
“I got up and knew I just had to be the man in that spot,” Tietz said about his double. “This is a great group of guys on this team.”
Elliot Engle went the distance on the mound for the Bombers, striking out 13, including two in the ninth.