The Wahpeton Reds and Wahpeton Blues got the celebrity treatment Thursday, June 25.
Members of the Cal Ripken youth baseball program, the 12u teams played at Chahinkapa Park. The nearly 30 players, ages 11-12, played a professional-level game according to one spectator.
“These games are as much fun as the ones their big time counterparts are being paid millions for,” Jack Michaels said.
Michaels, play by play announcer for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, broadcast from Wahpeton as part of “Little League Night in America.” He was joined by fellow KFGO radio host Joel Heitkamp.
Reds Coach Pat Jones was proud of his team scoring 11-0, but more importantly of what the Reds and Blues players shared.
“It’s a dream come true for them to be on the radio,” Jones said. “It put the kids in the spotlight and made them feel pretty special.”
Blues Coach Clint Gilbertson agreed, amusedly recalling a starstruck moment.
“The kids were having a blast. One kid wasn’t even pitching. He wanted to hear himself on the radio,” Gilbertson said.
Vision Ford, Wahpeton, is a local and regional sponsor of Little League Night in America. The car dealership donated $500 to local youth baseball prior to the Reds and Blues game. Owner Ward Cater said it’s fun to see youth out and having fun again.
“Baseball is a big deal this time of the year, or at least it should be,” Cater said. “It’s been so much fun for families out of the area who can listen to their child, grandchild or nephew’s ball game.”
Little League Night in America was invented by Michaels this summer. The COVID-19 pandemic may have halted professional ballgames, but it hasn’t halted professional-level talent.
“I decided, ‘Let’s get out the motorhome and broadcast Little League games,’” Michaels said. “And the kids have been so great.”
Little League Night games are rebroadcast on KFGO, AM 790/94.1 FM. The Wahpeton Reds and Blues’ match was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday. Each game is also archived and can be listened to under “Podcasts” at kfgo.com.
“We’ve had people from New Jersey calling us, saying, ‘Hey, that’s my grandson,’” Michaels said.
The Reds and Blues will participate in next month’s state tournament held in Wahpeton, Recreation Director LaRee Bumgarner said. In the meantime, the ballplayers are keeping busy.
Following their morning game in Wahpeton, the Reds left for Fargo to play a doubleheader. The Blues left for Hankinson, North Dakota, also to play a doubleheader.
The Reds will be back in Chahinkapa Park on Sunday, June 28 for a doubleheader against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Minnesota. On Tuesday, June 30, they’ll play against Morris and Breckenridge, Minnesota, again in Wahpeton.
“It’s good to be somewhat back to normal while following the guidelines for safe play,” Jones said. “We’ve got sanitizer on the bench. Every player’s using the sanitizer and his own equipment. It’s good to see the boys back on the field. We’re playing ball — a lot of ball.”