By PATRICK SLACK
Following a decade hiatus, amateur baseball is returning to Swanville.
After the snow melts, of course.
The Swanville Swans will open their inaugural season as soon as the weather allows it, competing in the 10-team Resorters League.
The idea came about when Tony Johnson, a 2000 Swanville graduate, and a few members of his summer softball team went on to compete in a wood-bat league last fall.
After that, the team started saying, “We gotta do this for baseball, we gotta do this for baseball,” Johnson said.
“I’m not a great follow-through guy, but I’m great at starting things, so it was right in my wheelhouse,” he said.
Johnson, the team’s manager, went on to contact the Victory League and the Resorters League to see if either would have an opening for a Swanville-based team.
Upon looking into each, Johnson decided the Resorters League was the better choice for a start-up team.
“The Victory League is one of the best in the state,” Johnson said. “The Resorters League is an up-and-coming league, but it’s a much better fit for us starting out.”
“I went to a few Resorters League meetings, asked if I could speak, gave my little spiel of why we should be in, the vote came in and we won,” he said.
Swanville will compete in the Resorters League East Division with Carlos, Clarissa, Long Prairie and Sauk Centre. In the West are Brandon-Evansville, Kensington, Ashby, Osakis and Urbank-Parkers Prairie.
The Resorters League is very top-heavy, Johnson said, led by perennial powers Carlos and Clarissa, but the Swans should be able to compete quickly.
Along with members from the Resorters League, Swanville will compete with teams from the Hi-10 and Lake and Pine leagues in region play.
“I think we’re going to be able to be very competitive,” Johnson said. “One of the biggest things you need is pitching, which takes time. The weather isn’t cooperating with that, but fortunately we are able to get in the Swanville school to do some stuff in there, light hitting and throwing. I think as the season goes on we’re going to be competitive.”
The previous amateur team in Swanville, the Heat, folded in 2002, hurt in part by not having its own high school team to draw from after the high school merged with Upsala for baseball.
But now, the largely vacated Swanville High School field will see regular game action once again.
“Swanville school has been gracious enough to rent us the field,” Johnson said. “There’s definitely some excitement building.”
The bulk of the roster will be filled with high school players from Swanville and Little Falls at the outset, with a few veterans sprinkled in.
“We were fortunate to get a couple of kids with some amateur baseball experience,” Johnson said. “That will definitely help. The base of our team is going to be Little Falls and Swanville. That’s all it really needs to be.”
“I’m hoping that as it grows, it shows that Swanville kids can play baseball,” he said. “I want it to be a feeder program for all of USA (Upsala-Swanville Area) baseball.”
Johnson said one of his main goals is to have a deep enough roster, something that would allow him to focus on managing rather than playing.
A month ago that didn’t look too promising, but the team has rounded into shape quickly.
“As of four weeks ago, I had seven kids and I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ But it has started picking up and people are getting excited.”
With its roster filled out, Swanville and the rest of the teams in the Resorters League now only have to wait for fields to become playable.
While Johnson believes the team can be competitive soon, the main goal this year will be to get the team off the ground for the future.
“We’re looking to get our feet wet this year, maybe get into a tournament,” Johnson said. “Hopefully it gives people a reason to come to Swanville in the summer besides the Swanville Carnival and gives kids an opportunity to play.”
The Swans will play seven home games and eight on the road in the Resorters League, possibly a game or two against Victory League opponents and are still looking to add a couple of games to its schedule.