Small College Sports

So far, so good at NCAA Division III World Series in Cedar Rapids

Ogden column: But Chuck Yrigoyen wants to do even better

The Washington & Jefferson dugout celebrates a run against Chapman during a first round game at the NCAA Division III World Series at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. It’s been a lot of work to get this tournament rolling, but it’s been going well. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The Washington & Jefferson dugout celebrates a run against Chapman during a first round game at the NCAA Division III World Series at Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids. It’s been a lot of work to get this tournament rolling, but it’s been going well. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Chuck Yrigoyen doesn’t want to sound like a whiner.

He just loves what he’s watched at Veterans Memorial Stadium the past three days and wants you to love it, too.

Or at least see it.

On one hand, he’s disappointed. But he doesn’t like using that word.

On the other, he “gets it.” But he admits it’s frustrating.

“I don’t know how we convince people from town to come out and watch,” said Yrigoyen, commissioner of the American Rivers Conference.

Yrigoyen was instrumental in bringing the NCAA Division III World Series to Cedar Rapids, with a lot of help from the local tourism group, the A-R-C and the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

It was the third time Cedar Rapids had bid for this event, which spent the past 19 years in Appleton. Wis.

The third time was the charm. And there are no regrets, despite all the work involved.

“When you get compliments, when you’re able to highlight your city ... it just makes you feel really good,” he said during a quick break Sunday. “We feel like we’re doing something good for (the A-R-C) ... we also feel like we’re giving back to the (NCAA) membership.”

Still, he’d like to see a few more people in the stands as the tournament heads into its final three days.

“It’s Division III and this is a Division I state,” Yrigoyen said, noting some see this level of sports as “glorified intramurals.”

But, he quickly adds, “that’s just not the case.”

A diving catch Saturday night by Heidelberg’s Robbie Hunt was the ESPN play of the day.

“We’ll get past that ... as people find out,” Yrigoyen said. “You get another 200 people from the community here, it puts a completely different spin on things.”

By all accounts the tournament is a success. The NCAA committee, he said, has been very complimentary, the Kernels staff has “just been amazing” and the teams seem to love Memorial Stadium.

“When you’re here, you feel like you’re in a neighborhood ballpark,” he said.

But Yrigoyen, again, isn’t quite satisfied.

“It seems that we are learning by the minute — literally,” he said. “There are so many details ... there’s just a lot ... little things that can make things run more smoothly.

“We’re getting up to speed and taking notes.”

Which is all one can expect when hosting a major collegiate event for the first time. There are going to be mistakes. There are going to be mishaps.

Yrigoyen gets that, too.

“These are the ways we’ll try to be better,” he said.

Maybe someone should tell Yrigoyen to relax and enjoy the good work he and others are doing. It seems like he’s telling himself that, though.

“All we’re hearing from the committee ... they just seem elated about the entire thing,” he said. “We’ll see what the final grade is, but our midterm grade is pretty good.”

The tournament continues Monday with UMass-Boston taking on Chapman at noon. The championship series starts Tuesday with Birmingham-Southern waiting for an opponent.

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And this is just the first of what could be a long relationship. Cedar Rapids will host this tournament again in 2020, ’21 and ’22. Maybe even beyond. The bidding for the next four-year cycle is coming quickly.

“We’ll have to make a pretty quick decision,” he said.

Seems like an easy decision to me.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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