Youth Baseball

Aurora community steps up to help a return to the diamond

Aurora Vandals are town's first youth baseball program since 1980s

By Chris Schad

The Brookings Register

Posted 6/13/24

If you’ve talked to Aurora Vandals president Jeff Hallin, he remembers a lot about his youth baseball career.

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Youth Baseball

Aurora community steps up to help a return to the diamond

Aurora Vandals are town's first youth baseball program since 1980s


AURORA — If you’ve talked to Aurora Vandals president Jeff Hallin, he remembers a lot about his youth baseball career.

Hallin remembers wearing No. 9 for the Aurora Cubs and winning a 12U tournament in Brookings. He remembers a home run by Chad VanMeveren and Shane VanMeveren hitting a ball to the fence. He remembers his friend Eric Markwed driving in the game-winning run in the championship game and the thrill of bringing back the trophy to his hometown.

“It was basically Aurora against like 11 or 12 Brookings teams,” Hallin recalled. “That was pretty cool watching a little town like Aurora come into Brookings and win the whole thing.”

That tournament was just one memory that Hallin had playing youth baseball. But it’s also one that many generations haven’t had when the program shut down in the 1980s.

After a long hiatus, Hallin has helped bring back youth baseball to Aurora this summer and the community has stepped up to create the same memories that Hallin had.

The process started last winter when Hallin drove by Langland Field in Aurora. The field is where Hallin grew up playing youth baseball and was later named after Jake Langland, who passed away in summer 2019 and had the field dedicated in his honor that October. But the field had mostly sat empty since the elimination of the youth program with the exception of a couple of seasons by the Aurora Aces amateur team and a few games for the Brookings Cubs, who played there during the renovation of Bob Shelden Field.

“It just sort of bothered me that no one was ever using it,” Hallin said. “So I reached out to some of the people in Aurora and started banging the drum.”

Hallin had some experience in getting youth baseball programs running. After growing up in Aurora, Hallin currently lives in Volga and got the Bruce Stingers youth program up and running with the help of others. Young ball players had the opportunity to play in a slow-pitch league in Estelline or even make the 13-minute drive to play in Brookings, but he wanted to create something in his hometown.

“Jeff really drove the efforts to get this started,” Aurora Vandals board of directors member Tara Billings said. “He kind of put a bug in people’s ears back in December and started communicating with the people in Aurora and started a Facebook group just to gauge interest and it really got the ball rolling.”

Once the interest was gauged, Hallin started organizing an 8U and a 12U team to take the field this summer as part of the MinnDak league which includes Baltic, Colman, Dell Rapids, Flandreau Garretson, Hills-Beaver Creek, Madison, Tri-Valley, West Central and Volga.

Billings, Hallin and fellow board of directors members Colin Kneip and Eli McGehee went to work, getting the sponsorships to keep registration costs low while supplying jerseys, hats and equipment.

Once the groundwork was done, local businesses bought signs to be displayed on the outfield walls and the dugouts were renovated at Langland Field to house the new team. The Aurora Events Committee brought a public address system for play-by-play and music and parent volunteers have run the concession stand serving popcorn, candy and drinks.

The team effort expanded outside of the organization as community members asked Billings and Hallin how they could help.

“It’s been amazing to see how the community has responded,” Billings said. “We’ve had sponsorship people reach out and ask us ‘How can we help?’ and ‘What can we do?’ We have sponsors coming out left and right. …It’s a great atmosphere and the field is beautiful.”

While getting the program up and running has been an accomplishment, it hasn’t compared to the opportunity that was created on the field. Some of the 25 kids that are playing between the two teams had never played baseball prior to this summer and are enjoying their first experience with the sport.

Billings also said that she’s heard from Brookings natives who have reached out to see if they can join the team next year, bringing a new challenge of accommodating that growth.

But for now, the Vandals are back on the diamond and it fulfills the vision Hallin had back in December and brought Langland Field back to life.

“It’s really cool to have baseball going in Aurora again,” Hallin said. “That’s where I got to play as a kid. It’s really cool to see them be able to use that field again.”

Aurora baseball hosting two fundraisers

The Vandals are looking to continue their growth by running a pair of fundraisers over the next several weeks.

A Slammer Pizza fundraiser is running through June 26 and supporters can purchase frozen pizzas for $15. Flavors include a four-meat combo, chicken alfredo, pepperoni lovers, bacon cheeseburger, pepperoni and sausage, breakfast (egg, sausage and bacon), two cheese, sausage and supreme. Orders can be placed through an e-mail to Billings ( and can be delivered or picked up June 28 at Lemke’s Bar and Grill in Aurora.

The Vandals are also hosting a bean bag tournament on June 15 across the street from Lemke’s Bar and Grill in Aurora. Registration for the event will begin at 12:30 p.m. and cost $20 per person, with the bags flying at 1.