Sunday, August 7, 2022
Chasing South Dakota Amateur Baseball - A trip to Tabor for Czech Days - a must for an amateur baseball fan
Tabor Blue Birds fans watch the postgame fireworks show from behind the left field wall during the annual Czech Days game on June 16 in Tabor
Rodney Haas/605sports
Jun 24, 2022
 

Commentary By Rodney Haas
605 Sports 

TABOR — The look I would get every time I would tell my Arizona friends why I’m taking a vacation to South Dakota to work a baseball tournament; was, well, what can I say — priceless. 

They: “So, is it a Little League Tournament?”  

Me: “Ha Ha Ha Ha. Ummm. Not even close!” 

“Try more like 18 until they physically can’t play anymore.”

I would describe to people, whose first baseball experience was more than likely an Arizona Diamondbacks game, a place of towns so small they didn’t even have a high school. A place whose only identity was its baseball team. A place where the starting shortstop is the kid who pumps your gas. 

“To tell you the truth, our starting shortstop tonight is still in high school,” Tabor manager Chris Sutera said.

Amateur baseball in South Dakota, is the state’s best kept secret. If you are a fan of the game of baseball, then a trip to your local ballpark is the place to spend your summer nights — even if you have no relation to the players playing. 

In a year where the baseball season was delayed over millionaires and billionaires arguing over an amount of money that we will probably never see in our bank accounts; amateur baseball has a way of reminding us of what is good about baseball. 

It’s purity. 

“There’s not much to (our) town,” Sutera said “You have the lumber yard. You have a small gas station outside of town. The bar and a little grade school. But other than that, everyone looks forward to Tabor baseball on Thursdays and Sundays.” 

 

A painted mural in Tabor tells the story of the town’s culture. (Rodney Haas/605sports)
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For towns like Tabor and Canova where during the rest of the year, the attention shifts 15 to 20 miles down the road to Howard and Bon Homme high schools, baseball is what puts these communities on the map. 

According to Sutera, the key comes from good coaching with the younger Little League, Teener and Legion programs, and then the high school club program at Bon Homme.   

“That grooming makes us who we are,” he said. “They are learning the game, they are playing like they want to play for Tabor baseball.”

A part of the tradition the Tabor Bluebirds includes playing in the annual Czech Days game with rival Lesterville. 

“It means the world to our community,” Sutera said of the annual Czech Days game. “We have a town of 400 people and as you can see by just looking around here, we already have 400-plus people here and we’re still 30 minutes away from game time. It means the world to our fans and it means the world to our young guys and the older guys who still put on the uniform.”

 


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Businesses on main street in Tabor show their support for the Tabor Blue Birds amateur baseball team. (Rodney Haas/606sports)
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When I arrived in Tabor for this year’s Czech Days game the time was a little after 6 p.m. I decided to walk around the carnival set up on main street. 

What I found was a deserted main street that was only inhabited by carnies and a few other stragglers. 

Sutera was right when he said the place was packed 30 minutes before first pitch. It was something I found out last year when I attended this game for the first time. 

I remember saying something to the Lesterville player I parked next to, “Wow there’s already a lot of the people here.” The player laughed and responded, “Yeah they will all be drunk by first pitch.” 

He was right. 

The best way to describe the annual Czech Days game is to say it's the biggest party in the South Central League in June. 

“There are some guys who do tailgating and you will definitely hear them from the outfield,” Sutera said. “Hopefully we don’t have to kick anybody out of here. It’s a great atmosphere and it's good for our young players so when we do get to big games like districts and state. We’ve already had a big game mentality.”


Fans line the outfield fence during the annual Czech Days Amateur Baseball game on Thursday, June 16 in Tabor. (Rodney Haas/605sports)
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The annual June game also marks the halfway point for the Bluebirds. Sutera said the schedule this year is a little shorter because the district lost a couple of teams, however, the next few weeks will be a tough stretch.  

“This is almost the end of our first half of the season and from here we start making a district push for a district championship and a run at state,” he said. 

Regardless of how the second half of the season pans out for the Bluebirds, the one thing for sure, is the fans will follow them all the way to hopefully a trip to Mitchell in August. 

“We like to travel for our ball,” Sutera said. “Gas prices are a little higher so it might scare a few people away, but other than that I think we will still have good crowds no matter the place.”