Fans of baseball flocked to Robert G. Fritz Memorial Field on May 16 in Cologne. There was no game. A matinee with the Hollanders and Carver postponed indefinitely. There were burgers and cheese curds, atop the hill at The Shack.
Did these customers come just for a delicious meal, or did they come for a bit of normalcy in a strange time? As head chef Craig Pexa took orders, patrons gazed down at the green grass of the playing surface. They were treated to a preview of the Hollanders’ new scoreboard.
A burger basket, a beer, and town team baseball, wouldn’t that be nice right now?
“The people are looking for a way to get out of the house. The people coming through, they really appreciate it,” said Pexa, Cologne’s baseball manager. “Everyone almost always asks the question, when will baseball start? I keep telling them I have no clue. When this thing started, I was saying June 1 and hopefully that’s the case.”
As South Dakota has started up its amateur baseball season, with precautions in place, Minnesota baseball officials are asking for the same thing from Gov. Tim Walz.
“I have a feeling the governor is going to say something this week. We’re going to hear something soon. People coming to the ball park are coming for baseball. They understand what’s at stake. We might get a couple hundred at a ball game. There’s more than enough room to be spaced out and enjoy the game,” Pexa said.
Minnesota Amateur Baseball’s board of directors has sent Walz two letters outline recommendations to open baseball, keeping all players and fans safe:
“This letter is from the heart of amateur baseball, its players, managers and league officers.
“For those of us that play, baseball is more than a hobby, it is a way of life.
“Many of us have played for decades with our fathers, brothers and sons.
“We don’t get paid and play for the love of the game. We understand that precautions need to be taken to assure everyone’s safety and if they are done we feel baseball is a logical ‘next step’ of opening up our state.”
People are just clamoring, we’re getting phone calls and e-mails, we want to get on the field,” MBA Director Mark Forsman of Dassel said to FOX 9’s Hobie Artigue on May 17.
HOT STOVE TALKS
Baseball has been the talk of the airwaves on local radio stations in New Prague and Glencoe of late. Aaron Worm of KCHK 95.5FM/1350 AM hosted a hot stove show on April 23 with a representative of all 13 Dakota-Rice-Scott League teams.
One week later, the station aired a similar show with members of the River Valley League, including the Shakopee Indians, Prior Lake Jays and Jordan Brewers.
“It was definitely a different show this year. Usually you can preview games on the schedule, talk about tournaments that teams are going to participate in, but those topics are kind of on the back burner. Even the number of transactions for leagues on their waiver wire are way down, because of uncertainty,” Worm said.
We decided to do the hot stove shows, because I think a lot of us are craving to talk about upcoming sporting events, even if they do not happen. We also did a special program for the DRS Baseball league, the All-Decade team 2010-2019, to keep talking amateur baseball, during this period, and keep our listeners excited for the possibility of its return,” he added.
Jeremy Stender of KGLB 1310 AM was joined by Crow River Valley League regulars Josh Monahan, Chris Dammann and Kip Kovar live from Wilkommen Park in Norwood Young America May 10 to announce the 2010-19 All-Decade Team for the league.
Included in the 30-member team were Andrew Weber and Mark Ulrich of the Carver Black Sox, and Alex Twenge of Green Isle, a former Minnetonka High School standout. Carver manager Brian Tichy was also named one of the “assistant” coaches of the decade in the league.
While the hot stove shows were a hit, giving area baseball fans something to talk about, actual games are what is needed next.
“Managers and players we talked with during the hot stove shows were cautiously optimistic. At the time of the two shows, late April, early May, the likelihood of a season didn’t seem that great, but this situation is rapidly changing, and I think the possibility of some form of a season has definitely risen,” Worm said.
The Jordan Brewers were the final team standing in the Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament last Labor Day in Delano, defeating Hutchinson in the title game. It was the program’s fourth state title, the first since 2004.
So you can imagine the Brewers are itching to get back on the field in its title defense.
“We have had a few nights at the Mini Met preparing just in case we get that chance to play baseball. Not only are the guys wanting to get back at it, I know the town of Jordan is wanting some baseball back,” Jordan manager/player Scott Hollingsworth said. “The town of Jordan is a huge baseball town and from the social media posts and talk with some of the guys, everyone in Jordan wants baseball as soon as possible.”
While waiting for the green light from the governor, Hollingsworth said between eight and 10 players have been swinging, golf clubs that is. The competitive juices are flowing, and cage work and playing catch just aren’t enough for most amateur baseball players.
“As far as our guys, I think all of them are ready to play and will be ready once and if it is lifted,” Hollingsworth said. “From the turnouts for work nights at the park, to hitting in the cage, our guys will be ready to play as many games as we can if they lift it. We are still planning on even hosting the Coors Light Classic with Shakopee at the end of June.”
The area also has the two-time defending Class B state champions in the Chanhassen Red Birds. High school seniors Jacob Mrosko (Purdue) and Andrew Mahlke (St. John’s) bolster an already strong line-up and deep pitching staff.
“We will play. It’s a logical, reasonable, thought out next step. I’m not even thinking about not playing. I’m hoping for June 1 as the latest we start,” MBA Director Mike Nagel of Bird Island told FOX 9’s Hobie Artigue on May 17.