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1 Year After Fire, Waseca Residents Still Hope To See Baseball Grandstand Return

WASECA, Minn. (WCCO) -- Spring is in the air in Waseca and so is baseball.

"You know in 22 years I think I've had three windows busted out," Danne Dahms, who lives across the street from Tink Larson Field, said with a laugh. "It's part of the game."

From his front yard he has a clear view of the Waseca High School Varsity team as they practice on the diamond and jokes about bringing his baseball mitt outside to catch foul balls.

But it's what he can't see anymore that he misses the most.

"All the time I reminisce what it was," he said of the old grandstand that used to obstruct his view. "When it went up in flames I started crying, I mean everybody did."

On April 6, 2016, the historic grandstand that was almost 90 years old caught fire. The structure was made of wood and sent smoke into the sky that neighbors could see for nearly a mile.

Police suspect it was arson but even after a year they have no leads. There's now a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest and prosecution.

"Even if it was, it's to the point where we just got to move on," Kelvin Nelson, varsity head coach said.

Steel bleachers now fill the old spot, as well as a row of original seats. The grass that was scorched behind home plate was replaced with actual grass from the Twins' Target Field, according Waseca High School's athletic director. But still, Nelson and the players feel like something is missing.

"As grateful as we are to have the seating that we do and the backstop that we do, this field deserves better," Nelson said. "And it's going to get what it deserves again."

A plan in place to build a new grandstand. People have been campaigning to raise money for the project, which is projected to cost $1.8 million. Through insurance, city support and donations already $1.2 million has been raised.

"I just want to see it concrete and the way it looked," Dahms said.

"I think it's nice to know that this town has a commitment that baseball's important and want to in a way to keep the memory alive," Maas said.

Besides waiting on a new grandstand, Maas is just happy for a chance to spend an entire season on his home field. Last year, the team had to play home games in neighboring towns as Tink Larson Field was getting repaired. They only game they played on their true home turf in 2016 was the final game of the season.

"For the seniors last year, kind of threw off the whole year," Nelson said. "You're looking forward to getting to play on this great field then all of a sudden, boom, you don't get a single game until the last game of the year."

Maas said he's looking forward to playing more games in front of his home crowd.

"For me it's more a new opportunity to show your town that you're here to compete and play hard."

Friday afternoon the Waseca High School Varsity team will play a double header for the home opener.

For more information on the campaign to build a new grandstand or make a donation, click here.

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