EDITOR’S NOTE: This is latest installment of a series from the Press & Dakotan’s Bailey Zubke, as he explores amateur baseball and the South Central League for the first time.
TABOR — Since starting this tour of the South Central League, one of two games that kept showing up as a ‘must-see’ is the Czech Days game in Tabor.
The annual Czech Days baseball game between Tabor and Lesterville kicked off Czech Days 2021 Thursday, and there was no shortage of excitement. There were a lot of people telling me if I was going to do this tour, I would be doing it wrong if I missed Thursday night’s festivities and they were right.
A town of just over 400 people had cars wrapping around the entire field over an hour before first pitch. The big open field on the other side of the outfield fence was filled with vehicles. Fans stood all around the park, and the grandstands were filled with fans who wanted the view from behind the plate.
“What makes this special is that, you can see all the vehicles that are parked around the stadium already, before we even get started,” Sutera said. “This is the pride and joy of Tabor. What keeps it going is Czech Days and Tabor baseball. That’s what keeps our town motivated.”
The game itself was nothing short of fantastic. Tabor fell behind 3-0 before striking for five runs in the fifth, from there it was a slugfest. Tabor forced extra innings by driving in one run in the bottom of the ninth. Lesterville cleared the bases with a triple in the 11th, winning 10-7.
The fans were about as rowdy as they could be. One fan could be heard yelling “balk” during and between each pitch Lesterville starting Michael Drotzmann threw as the game wore on. Shortly after that there were two groups of Tabor fans who started a back-and-forth chant.
One group would call out “Take him out!” referring to the Tabor bats starting to catch up to Drotzmann, and the other would say “Leave him in!” as they hoped to take advantage of Drotzmann’s tiring arm.
The baseball game kicks off the weekend of Czech Days, and the fans were celebrating accordingly. The adults who were getting their fair share of beverages weren’t the only ones having a great time.
Kids take a break from playing catch with their friend to chase down every foul ball that leaves the field. Even if they are down the first base line and the foul is down the third base line, they are chasing after that ball in hopes to get a dollar.
Nearly every kid at the Czech Days game Thursday had a mitt on, hoping that if they were fast enough, they could catch the ball before it lands out of play.
For Tabor, Bluebird baseball is the goal for young ball players. From the moment you start in peewee ball, to when you complete your time in Legion, it all builds to playing for the Bluebirds. Sutera has been a part of the Bluebirds for 14 years, but as a kid, Bluebird baseball is all he knew.
“My grandpa use to play on this team way back when,” Sutera said. “I grew up loving baseball and everybody around the town was like, Tabor baseball, if you want to play for somebody, you want to play for Tabor. That’s been something that everybody wants to do.”
Baseball is known as America’s Pastime. And while Major League Baseball may not be the largest sport in the country anymore in terms of fans, towns like Tabor show exactly what people mean when they say that the sport is America’s Pastime.
An extra inning thriller was just part of a memorable Thursday night in Tabor, and from what I saw, Tabor Bluebird baseball and Amateur Baseball in South Dakota isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Follow @BaileyZubke on Twitter.