Playing in a state tournament is special in itself.
For the Negaunee Diamonds and Marquette Blues American Legion baseball teams, competing in the state Class A tournament July 28-30 at Adrian College had to be extra special.
Both teams came up short in their goals to win the state title, as the Diamonds finished as runner-up and the Blues made it to the semifinals before being eliminated.
But both teams got to play on an unusual field and at least the Blues, under lights.
Nicolay Field in Adrian has a ProGrass artificial surface. Even the basepaths are artificial, covered with a synthetic material. Only the pitcher's mound had dirt.
Down the left field and right field lines, the distance is 325 feet. It's 375 feet in both power alleys and an estimated 400 feet to dead center.
The fence goes up against the foul lines about 50 feet past the bags at first and third, leaving little foul territory in which to catch pop flies.
The field features pro-caliber dugouts, with a separate building nearby containing batting cages and a bullpen.
The covered grandstand has chairback seating for 300 fans. A heated pressbox separates the two sections, with a concession stand on the lower level.
In short, it was quite a facility, no doubt one of the best for an NCAA Division III college.
It's also part of an impressive sports complex that included a football stadium, hockey stadium, track and field facility, and tennis courts.
Though the Blues played against Hudson July 29 about 1 hours late due to delays during the day and didn't finish until 11:20 p.m., competing under the lights had to be a different -perhaps enjoyable - experience.
Hudson hosted the tournament. That was a tremendous advantage, since it wound up only playing three games in taking the title.
The Diamonds - listed as the "Nagaunee" Diamonds in the tourney program - was forced to play five games after dropping into the loser's bracket.
If the Diamonds had won the first championship game, they would have had to play a sixth game, further taxing their pitching staff.
The moral of the story: host the tournament and win your first two games to slide right into the title contest.
Also, a hint: If you ever compete at Nicolay Stadium in temperatures 90 degrees or more and heat indices reaching 101, bring a large fan for the dugout. Ida did against the Blues.
It was a long trip to Adrian, located just a few miles from the Ohio border. Hancock and Kingsford, two other teams in the tourney, had even longer trips than the Diamonds and Blues.
But it had to be worth the effort. You just don't get to play for a state title every day.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.