Community-focused Salem baseball team ready to host summer tournaments – Mitchell Republic

SALEM, SD — With baseball season in full swing, the city of Salem is prepared to host a litany of the best teams from across the state.

Salem is scheduled to host the South Dakota VFW Class B tournament for under-12s with neighboring Montrose July 12-14, along with the 10U tournament the following weekend. Salem will also host the American Legion Class B state baseball tournament beginning August 2.

Although hosting three tournaments in four weeks may seem like a daunting challenge, the group bidding to host baseball tournaments in the city knew that recent improvements to playing surfaces and facilities would make Salem an attractive host city.

“Because of the improvements to the facility and the quality of our facility, when we submitted our bid, we were recognized and said, 'Yes, this is a good place to host, this is a good place to play,'” said Craig Cheeseman, who has been involved with Salem baseball since 1992.

“We felt good about making the offer for a lot of reasons,” added Legion baseball coach Jeremy Grady. “We knew what facilities were in place and we knew what improvements we were going to make (this year).”

Both Grady and Cheeseman have also applied to host the event, confident they will have a competitive team for the tournament. As hosts, Salem/Montrose/Canova Post 140 automatically qualifies for the tournament and the team has a 10-4 record and has won eight of its last nine games.

The last time Salem hosted the State Legion Tournament was in 2015. At that time, improvements were made to improve the overall fan experience. Projects leading up to the 2015 tournament included the construction of new bleachers behind home plate, a new concession stand behind the third-base line, and new concrete-lined dugouts.

In preparation for this year's tournaments, a roof was erected over the grandstand, the fence around the playing area was replaced and turf bullpens were added to the outside corners.

The cost of the most recent round of field improvements was about $130,000. The city of Salem helped fund the projects, but most of the money was raised through the city's baseball programs and individual donations, creating an atmosphere where everyone is proud to do their part.

“People recognize that we have something special here,” Grady said. “It makes everyone involved proud and they want to be part of it. … The bigger we think, the more people help.”

Many people associated with the Salem baseball teams have contributed in some way to enrich the experience for everyone involved. People of all ages, including children in the programs and parents who have volunteered to help with the younger teams, have seen what baseball can bring to the community and provided those currently involved with the knowledge that the future is in good hands.

“The fathers involved in these programs already have ideas about what's next,” Cheeseman said. “They're thinking about what the next big project will be.”

Future improvements include upgrading the field lighting to improve the nighttime experience, as well as a new parking lot in conjunction with the community center that will be built behind the first base dugout. For now, the focus is on maintaining standard field maintenance, such as replacing a patch of turf on the pitcher's mound.

Ultimately, it is a tradition for the Salem community and everyone involved feels their work comes full circle each time the Amateur Cubs or Post 140 take the field.

“Baseball is a lifelong sport,” Cheeseman said. “It's great to be able to participate and be part of a community that's interested in watching baseball. … It's hard work and a lot of time, and we're going to continue to grow.”

Blake Durham has been a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic since October 2023. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a bachelor's degree in communications in December 2022. Durham covers a variety of prep and college sports in the area.