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Mr. Baseball

Park 2010 graduate Tommy Swanson put a cap on his prep baseball career at the prestigious Minnesota Lions All-Star Baseball Tournament, held Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, at the Chaska Athletic Park in Chaska.

If all good things must come to an end, this was the way to do it.

Park 2010 graduate Tommy Swanson put a cap on his prep baseball career at the prestigious Minnesota Lions All-Star Baseball Tournament, held Friday and Saturday, June 25 and 26, at the Chaska Athletic Park in Chaska.

Swanson, a pitcher and outfielder, took the field for the Metro East All-Star team and competed in a four-team, round-robin tournament over the weekend.

The Minnesota All-Star Baseball Tournament, now in its 36th year, draws on the most talented senior baseball players in the state.

Swanson said the best part of the tournament was taking the field with former opponents.

"It was fun meeting all the guys I'd played against for years," Swanson said. "I'd seen them play and whatnot, but playing with them and talking with them was a different experience."

Just graduated from Park High School, Swanson played three years of varsity ball for the Wolfpack and head coach Reid Tschumperlin, who was chosen as one of three coaches to lead the Metro East squad. Tschumperlin has been Park's head coach for the past nine years.

At the tournament, the Metro East Team defeated the North and South teams, but fell to the West team in the title game.

"It's just a big weekend of baseball and other activities," Tschumperlin said. "It's a lot of fun. You get to coach players and coaches you've coached against and get to see players you've heard about and see what they're like and get to know them a little bit. It's just a great opportunity on so many levels."

Tschumperlin had coached the East team one time previously, in 2001. That year Park had two representatives in the game -- Andy Vitcak and Joe Anthonsen -- who joined future Twins players Glen Perkins and Joe Mauer on the East squad.

"I think six of the guys on our team that year were already signed and going to the University of Minnesota -- it was an amazing team," Tschumperlin said. "But, we still managed to screw it up and lose to the West team 3-2 in the final game.

"It's fun to coach the other players you don't know, but it's really special to coach one of your own players in something like this as well."

This past season Swanson led the Wolfpack with six homeruns, 28 RBI and 22 runs scored, while batting .346 as a senior, collecting All-Conference honors.

On the mound, Swanson led the Wolfpack with 43 strikeouts in 56.33 innings while going 2-6 on the year in 10 starts.

Tschumperlin said Swanson's selection as a Lions All-Star was very well deserved. "Watching these kids hit and pitch and in the field all week, the skill level of these players is amazing and Tommy fit right in," Tschumperlin said. "Tommy has a lot of things he can do really well. Tommy has a really strong, strong throwing arm from the outfield and pitched very well in his outing, along with being able to hit really well. He kind of has a great all-around game. He can do everything."

The elite Lions All-Star tournament offers players the chance to play before college and major league baseball scouts, and many past tournament participants have gone on to professional baseball careers. Most notable Lions alums are Mauer, Terry Steinbach, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner, Jim Eisenreich and Park High School Hall of Fame pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg. Last year, Park 2009 graduate Ben Bundschu was selected to the tournament. In 2008, Park's Dan Ubl took part in the event.

Swanson is pondering walking on at the Div. I University of North Dakota or accepting other offers, which could come from scouts who watched him play this past weekend.

"When he gets to play in something like the Lions All-Star game there are people who are going to see him and be interested in talking to him," Tschumperlin said. "It's a great opportunity for these kids -- especially the kids who are undecided -- to be seen by people."

Swanson was pleased with his play at the All-Star tournament, but said he was nervous.

"I pitched pretty well," Swanson said. "My hitting was a little iffy and I probably could have done better. It was a little nerve-racking facing all those pitchers that are supposed to be really good."

The tournament is co-sponsored by the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank and the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association and benefits the Lions Children's Eye Clinic at the University of Minnesota. The clinic sees more than 5,000 children each year, many of them with such serious vision problems that no other clinic in the region can help. In the 35-year history of the tournament, more than $350,000 has been raised for the Children's Eye Clinic.

In addition to the three ball games, the players and coaches visited the Lions Children's Eye Clinic at the University of Minnesota and learned about children's eye diseases and injuries. Also, the players and coaches were given a tour of Target Field and met Hall of Fame player and Minnesota native Paul Molitor.

"It's just a great experience," Tschumperlin said. "The coaches and the players are really treated first-class by these people. We're fed constantly, they put us up in the hotel and there's a huge banquet the players are honored at."

The tournament made an impression on Swanson as well.

"I probably won't forget that for a really long time," he said.