It was a tough offseason for Rushmore Little League.
A string of vandalism during the fall and winter months left the league's fields and management in disarray, and thankful to be playing baseball again when the season started in early May.
Although league president Jim Bussell said not all the wounds have healed from the offseason, last weekend was a bright spot in what has been a long year.
Rushmore took four division championships in the Little League City tournament, and had a team in all but one division final over the weekend.
"We went through a lot in the offseason and in some cases we’re still trying to clean up," he said. "In some cases that hangover from the offseason is still there so it makes it better when you have success. It's been a long time coming."
The Rushmore Eagles won the Pee-Wee Division title, the Rushmore Giants beat the Rushmore Cubs for the Minors Division championship, the Rushmore Insurers won Division III by beating the Canyon Lake Lasers and the Rushmore Elks beat the Canyon Lake Lumberjacks to win Division I.
The Rushmore Classics reached the Division II championship game but lost to the Canyon Lake Diamondbacks.
"Over the last five years we’ve been going through a bit of a culture change, taking inventory of how we do things, what things to put emphasis on, going from recreational to trying to play competitive baseball," Bussell said. "I'd be lying to say we didn't take some pages out of Canyon Lake's playbook, see what they’re doing, Harney and timberline as well, (Rapid City) Post 22 and Post 320. Trying to find places where we can do better."
Bussell said numbers have been dipping slightly, and although he isn't sure why, he said it could be because of the change in culture the program has tried to install to become more competitive.
"I don't know why that is, don't know what to attribute it to," he said. "I've been told that a lot of people will leave a program when culture is changing because they don’t want to be a part of it. We have gotten a lot of inquires about kids participating next year though."
At the beginning of the season Bussell said the league would be trying to put lights in the neighborhood to keep the area around the ball park safer, which he said should be starting soon. The league is also hosting the west river sub-district tournament from July 13-16.
While the work isn't done off the field, it is far from complete on the field as well.
The all-star team that will play in the sub-district tournament has been selected, and that team hasn't advanced out of that tournament since 1988, according to Bussell.
Although the league wants to break that streak and go to the state tournament and beyond, Bussell said he knows the league has an opportunity to turn some heads by hosting the sub-distirct tournament.
"As a league, our focus is putting on a good tournament," he said. "There's going to be a lot of people with interest so it becomes a big deal."