The last several years have seen plenty of upheavals for the venerable tourney, which began in 1935 when “Hap” Dumont launched the first NBC National Tournament at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in an event built around Satchel Paige and his Bismarck, ND barnstorming team. (That’s part of a fascinating chapter in Paige’s life; you can read about it here.) With the demise of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and the construction of a new ballpark on its site for the Wichita Wind Surge (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the National Baseball Congress had charted a new course that called for the tourney to be played both at the new Wichita ballpark and Eck Stadium.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Wind Surge decided to pass on hosting tournament games this year, forcing play at Eck Stadum and Hobart-Detter Stadium in Hutchinson.
In the end, the tourney proceeded, opening with Coach Frank Leo’s Hays Larks taking on the Kansas City All-Stars. Only 13 teams are participating this year, but in many other respects it’s business as usual, per the Wichita Eagle:
[Tournament director Kevin Jenks] didn’t know what Monday night would look like, exactly, but as he started to see familiar faces around the stadium, it seemed to feel pretty normal.
“Everything looks a little bit different, but when it comes down to it, we’ve got great baseball being played,” Jenks said. “Guys are competing for a national championship, so that doesn’t change. I get to see a lot of these guys only once a year, so I want to give them a hug or a good handshake, but now we’re doing a dance on how to greet one another.
“But it is so refreshing to sit back and say, ‘OK, this is it. We’re playing.’ ”