ST. CLOUD -- Stearns County is known as an amateur baseball hotbed in Minnesota. It boasts 32 teams within its borders...among the most in the state.

The rich history of town team ball goes as far back as the late 1800's and is still going strong today. Historians say there was a combination of factors which laid the foundation for the game in Stearns County. St. Cloud Times sportswriter and amateur baseball expert Tom Elliott says religion played a large role in getting the game going...

I believe that the Catholic Church had a lot to do with spreading the game.

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

And, if you look in Stearns County, most of the churches have a ball field as part of the land. I think that was the deal...we're going to get you to the church on Sunday, we're going to get you a little recreation in the afternoon and then go do chores at night on the family farm.

Stearns History Museum Head Archivist Steve Penick says it was a way small towns came together for a day of entertainment...

Typically, Sunday was a day where nobody worked, so

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

families could go and watch the game, hang out, and socialize. It's still there today, where different towns develop rivalries. They've got that sense of pride for their community, their church.

Herman Lensing grew up around the game in Stearns County. He writes for the Melrose Beacon and has covered the Stearns County League for more than three decades....

It's just part of our heritage, part of our culture. My dad played, my uncles played, and I had friends that played.

Several college ball players have come from Stearns County over the years and St. Cloud State Baseball Coach Pat Dolan says it continues to be a recruiting breeding ground today...

It's a hotbed and it's no secret. People know central Minnesota baseball. I think we've had over 30 central Minnesota ballplayers play for us (SCSU).

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

The small towns and the proximity of those communities to one another has created some strong rivalries over the years. Youth ball players grow up playing high school baseball with each other and then become opponents in town team ball.

With the rich history of the game in central Minnesota, it's no wonder why the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame is located in St. Cloud.

Videographer Alex Svejkovsky contributed to this story.

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)