THE FRONT ROW with Mark Nelke July 26, 2012 - Coeur d'Alene Press: Sports

THE FRONT ROW with Mark Nelke July 26, 2012

If this is it at McEuen ...

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 12:15 am

With Lewis-Clark playing very un-Lewis-Clark like baseball these days, Cranbrook unable to field a team, Sandpoint no longer in the league and Moscow long gone from class AA, the North Idaho League isn't quite where it was as far as depth in American Legion baseball.

Coeur d'Alene has emerged as the top team in the North in recent years, but the league is down to four teams this year.

Still, when those four teams convene this weekend at McEuen Field for the class AA Area A (district) tournament, scheduled to run Friday through Sunday, it will likely mark the final Legion baseball games to be played at the historic downtown park.

One week later, more than two dozen former Coeur d'Alene Legion players to date have committed to play in an alumni game Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. - which might indeed be the last baseball played on that field.

A NEW field for the Coeur d'Alene Lumbermen - as well as the class A Loggers - needs to be in place before they start taking the bulldozer to McEuen for their new park design.

That new home appears to be at Ramsey Park, effective next year.

And if and when another baseball field is built next to Cherry Hill Park on 15th Street, the possibilities for baseball in Coeur d'Alene - Legion, high school, college summer league, maybe even college ball - are numerous.

They just won't be at McEuen.

For all its charm, McEuen Field was a bit of a bandbox, particularly in the power alleys - 360 feet to left center, 340 feet to right center.

The dimensions at the proposed Ramsey ballfield are a bit more generous - 326 feet down the left-field line, 350 to straightaway left, 375 to left center, 390 to dead center, 375 to right center, 350 to straightaway right, 326 down the right-field line.

Also, a 40x300-foot net is to be constructed behind the outfield fence, so softball players on Field 4 and Field 5 at Ramsey won't have to completely have their heads on a swivel when baseball games are going on.

Foul balls off to the right will head toward the Kroc Center, and those using the Prairie Trail will have to have a heads-up for foul balls their way.

THE FIRST McEuen game I watched was in 1983. It's not like I've been down there every summer night since, but I've seen a few over the years.

Two games stand out over that time - one that I saw, one that I heard about.

Back before Coeur d'Alene built a baseball field on its campus, the Vikings played their home games at McEuen Field.

On May 7, 1994, John Schroeder had an astounding day, going 6 for 7 with five home runs and 16 RBIs as Coeur d'Alene swept Lewiston in an Inland Empire League doubleheader.

"I just hit the ball like I usually do," Schroeder said after the game. "They just kept going out."

Now, lest you think he was merely taking advantage of the shortened dimensions at McEuen, think again. I was working in Sandpoint during that time, and on a couple of visits there, he hit three bombs at spacious Memorial Field that I had never seen there before, or saw after.

If memory serves, Schroeder hit one into the football press box, just left of dead center, a shot of more than 400 feet. He hit another one on the roof of the football press box, obviously a few feet farther. He also hit one on the roof of the locker rooms in right field.

Schroeder went on to be drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the fifth round.

THE OLD adage about no lead being too safe certainly rang true on June 19, 2006, when the Coeur d'Alene Lumbermen played the Lewis-Clark Twins in the first game of a North Idaho League American Legion doubleheader at McEuen.

The Twins led by eight runs heading into the bottom of the seventh, but the way both teams were hammering the ball (L-C led 25-17 at the time), even that big a lead appeared a bit tenuous.

It was.

The first Coeur d'Alene batter in the seventh grounded out, but the next 10 batters reached, and eventually scored.

Trent Bridges hit a three-run homer to pull the Lums within 25-20. Travis Georgius hit an RBI double, Cory Kreighbaum scored on a wild pitch and Georgius scored on a fielders choice, and it was 25-23.

A walk loaded the bases, and Mike Estrada hit the first pitch high and well over the fence in left-center field - over the 360 sign - for a walkoff grand slam and an improbable 27-25 Lums victory.

It was Estrada's third home run of the game - he finished 3 for 5 with seven RBIs - and one remarkable McEuen memory.

"The game of my life," Estrada said after the game.

So if there are any more McEuen memories to be made, it looks like there's only one more weekend remaining.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter at CdAPressSports.

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