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Firemen's tourney hopes to beat the rain

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion firemen threw a change up with their little league baseball tournament but can only hope it sneaks past Mother Nature.

The firemen moved their 47th annual tournament for 11 and 12 year olds at Lincoln Field to this weekend from the traditional early August date in hopes of attracting more teams. While eight teams committed, the event is at the mercy of the weather, and the forecast calls for rain throughout the weekend.

Already, the tournament is backed up from the original 6 p.m. start due to Thursday’s rainout of the Lincoln Field championship game. That game now will precede the Firemen’s opening round games at 6 p.m. if weather permits.

The double-elimination tournament is scheduled to continue through Sunday with the championship game at 3 p.m. and a second if necessary at 5 p.m. A home run derby is planned for 8 p.m. Saturday.

Muncie is the defending champion but did not enter this year. Oak Hill was the 2016 champion and joins teams from Marion and Madison-Grant and two teams from Eastbrook in the field. 

“The reason we decided to move it was because we had a lot of trouble getting teams to play the last few years with school starting so early,” said Tino Mitchener, the tournament commissioner. “Now that school starts the first week of August a lot of people want to get their vacations in and stuff like that.

“We wanted to jump ahead and move to the beginning of the all-star season and see if that worked better for us, and I did get a better turnout,” Mitchener added. “I actually had to turn away three teams that wanted in, so the desire to get in is there. Right now, we’re battling the weather.”

Mitchener said Mississinewa did not enter because it had committed to another tournament this weekend. This year’s field also includes Frankton, Manchester and North Miami.

If rain interrupts the Firemen’s tournament, Mitchener said tentative plans are to reschedule it for July 26-29.

“That hasn’t been decided yet, but that’s going to be plan B,” Mitchener said of the makeup dates. “If tomorrow gets rained out again then we may have to just call it.”

Mitchener said updates will be posted on the City of Marion Facebook page.

The Firemen’s Tournament started out as an all-county affair with some 20 little leagues represented. Over the years the number of county leagues have dwindled down to five and the firemen started looking outside the county to fill out the field.

What continues to make the tournament unique is teams do not pay an entry fee and the Marion firemen handle all the duties from umpiring to operating the concession stand. Another tradition is the winning team gets to ride a fire truck to Culver’s Restaurant for a post-game meal.

“This is the deepest tradition we have on the fire department,” Mitchener said. “This is our 47th year of hosting it, and it doesn’t cost the teams any money to enter. Other tournaments are $400, $500 and we put it on for free to give back to Marion and the surrounding communities and the kids.”

All proceeds from the concession stand benefit various local charities including Angel Tree and United Way, Mitchener said.