It might still show up as Battle Creek on your Garmin, but for this weekend our city transforms into Title Town once again as the MHSAA State Baseball/Softball Championships start today.
Since 1990, Battle Creek and Bailey Park have been the host of the Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals in baseball and softball as titles are won and lost and there are screams of joy and tears of defeat over a two-day period. For this weekend, Battle Creek is considered Title Town because no less than eight championship titles will be decided by Saturday – four in baseball and four in softball.
It is the place to be if you are a baseball or a softball player, coach or fan. And it is the place other locations would like to be as other cities wouldn’t mind taking the tournament away from Battle Creek.
So there should be an appreciation for having the state championships here, as Battle Creek is known as Title Town in multiple seasons throughout the year – Bailey Park hosts the MHSAA State Championships in baseball and softball in the spring; Kellogg Arena hosts the MHSAA volleyball championships in the fall and the team wrestling championships in the winter; plus Battle Creek has at times hosted MHSAA state bowling finals and golf finals.
But you ask, ‘Why should I care about having the state championships in Battle Creek?’ Maybe you aren’t playing in the state semifinals or finals, your child isn’t playing in the state tourney. Your favorite high school isn’t still alive in the postseason, having dropped out in the districts. Or, high school sports doesn’t get you excited, as you like to follow college teams or the pros.
But I would say that what happens at Bailey Park this weekend, and what happens at Kellogg Arena at different times during the year, crosses all aspects of being a sports fan. The excitement, the emotion of the action and the obvious dedication by players and coaches to get this far is enough to give anyone goosebumps if they have an appreciation for the spectacle of sports.
Let’s say you are a high school baseball or softball player, but your team didn’t make it to Battle Creek. Or, you are a coach of a high school team at any level. You want to see what it takes to get this far? You can have a front row seat this weekend. You can witness success at the highest level in high school sports in this state and get a feel for what it would take for you to be in that spot. You can get that taste of success and use it to feed you all the next 12 months in hopes of getting here next year.
Or, maybe you don’t have a child playing high school-level baseball or softball, but you have a little one that you spend Saturdays tossing the ball around with in the backyard. You want them to have a love for the game like you do? Show them a team winning a state title and the celebration that comes with it and your son or daughter will have a memory for life and strive to be in that same position one day.
College sports are more your thing. Take the chance to see the best of the best at the high school level and future college stars. Battle Creek has seen its share of Division 1 college prospects come through town in the state finals, taking their last swings at the high school level before heading off to college. Today, they are playing in the MHSAA state finals, next year it might be in the College World Series.
You like the Detroit Tigers, you watch them on TV every night. Get off the couch and see the boys and girls of summer play the game in person. Yeah, it’s a different level. Nobody is throwing 100-mph heat, but you will not see any more hustle at the Major League Baseball level as you will see when a third baseman tries to cover a bunt down the line with the winning run on base.
Beyond all that, there is the pageantry of the championships. The caravan of cars and buses that roll in to town each year with names of players and the words ‘Good Luck at States’ written on the windows. There is entire communities that move their town to Battle Creek for the weekend and fill the stands with their school colors. The handing out of trophies and medals as dirt-smeared players glow with pride and parents line up with cameras to record the ‘greatest moment’ of their young lives so far.
It’s all here in your very own park. The Cereal City will change its nickname to Title Town once again this weekend and you have a chance to enjoy that championship feeling by just being at the right place at the right time – and that place is Battle Creek and the time is now.