Owatonna chamber recognizes Corky’s tournament director Loren Deitz
In his ten years as the tournament’s director, Loren Deitz has seen the field of teams more than double at the Corky’s Early Bird Softball Classic.
On Saturday night, the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism recognized Deitz for the economical impact of the tournament.
“We want to recognize that there is a lot effort that goes into this event by the organizers,” chamber President Brad Meier said.
“It can’t be overstated how important the work that they do is. We want to this thing continue into the future because it’s so beneficial for everyone.”
This year marked the 40th anniversary of the tournament and included about 200 teams playing more than 400 total games in Owatonna, Faribault and Waseca. The tournament gives a healthy boost in income to area business. Tournament officials said as of Saturday night, every hotel within 70 miles was sold out.
“They have done such a great job of attracting teams that it grows every year,” Meier said. “They have also been able to figured out how to manage all of the things that come along with having this many teams visiting the area, and it gets better every year. Now it has expanded to Waseca, it’s in Faribault and here in Owatonna. As a region, it is a huge deal for our local economy.” Deitz said he’s more comfortable being behind the scenes, so admittingly, he was felt a little awkward when he was called on stage by Meier and Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz.
“I do appreciate everyone who was there to cheer me on,” Deitz said. “It does lift me up and make me and keep the tournament going for, who knows, maybe another 10 or 20 years. We really want to just keep giving back to Owatonna and the area.”
Around the time Deitz began the tournament’s director, Facebook was really starting to grow and he used the social media platform to attract teams from virtually every corner of the country.
“First the tournament grew from a Minnesota tournament to a Midwestern tournament,” he said.
“Then we started getting teams from even Florida, California, New York. We started to see the best teams from all over the country coming to the Corky’s Tournament and it just explode from there.
Deitz said the tournament’s famous pork burgers haven’t hurt either.
“It’s a food staple and I’ll heard people say they traveled 2,000 for one,” Deitz said. “Which is kind of crazy, but it does help. Everything around it: the competition, the food that we provide and just the atmosphere has led the growth of Corky’s Early Bird Tournament.”
Not only is the tournament good for area businesses, but the tournament also donates close to $50,000 a year back to community. This year the tournament plans to donate to We All Play-Owatonna.
“It’s a group that it trying to get a inclusive playground and miracle baseball field built,” Deitz said. “It’s a
hard surface playground that is a safe environment for children with special needs. It would give kids in wheelchair and with other disabilities the opportunity to play our great games of baseball and softball.
“I also challenge Owatonna businesses to match of $25,000 donation and a number of them did. Hopefully they can get that project done in the next year
Deitz said also presented a commemorative bat with Corky’s 40th anniversary logo from Carl Pegnatori.
Pegnatori is the owner of Monsta Athletics, a bat manufacturer in Calimesa, California, and the manager of the Monsta Athletics Black Sheeps, which were the champions of the Open Division at the tournament.
“in 2015, i put together a team to represent my company,” Pegnatori said. “The first two games the crowd was pretty rough on us. The first two games the crowd was pretty rough
on us, but by the end of the tournament we loved you guys and you loved us back and we have been coming back ever since.
“Every year we come here its great,” he continued.
”The people really take care of us when we get here and we play against some great competition.” Pegnatori said before he started his business he also ran tournaments.
“But not 200 team tournaments, more like 12 teams tournaments,” he said. “If you have not directed a tournament, you don’t know what it is like. Some people think it is all fun, but for a lot of these guys it’s not fun if they don’t win. So they take it pretty serious and it can be a lot to deal with all of the challenges that come along with that. It’s a lot of work.
“Thank you very much for all the hard work you do,” Pegnatori concluded.”I appreciate it and as long as you will have us, we will come back every year and do our best to help make it a good event."