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A Road Trip to Beloit

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Originally published at Knuckleballsblog.com

I drove up to Beloit over the weekend to catch a couple of baseball games between the Twins' Class A affiliate, the Snappers, and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The Rattlers and Snappers finished first and second, respectively, in the first-half standings of the Midwest League's Western Division, so I anticipated that they would play some decent baseball. They did.

If you want to read a lot about the games themselves, I'm going to refer you to the daily reports being posted by Seth Stohs over at Twins Daily. Seth and Travis Aune were in Beloit the past few days, as well, and I got to spend some time with them. I also met Jeremy Nygaard and his brother Jed on Saturday. I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk a little baseball with the group and appreciated their willingness to let an old man like me tag along with them for a day and a half.

For my part, I'm going to simply post a whole bunch of pictures I took and let it go at that. Except for this one thing... I've mentioned from time to time rumors that the Twins and my own local MWL team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, might consider entering in to a Player Development Contract starting next year. That's all they are, at this point, just rumors. Neither party is allowed to discuss the possibility or make any comment on the topic until September. As I think I've also posted before, I think the odds are about 50-50. I'm aware that some others think the odds are a bit greater.

Of course, in Beloit there is some concern. They don't want to lose the Twins. I don't blame them. They were abandoned by the Brewers a few years ago and nobody likes being told, "we don't want to be your MLB affiliate anymore."

The Beloit staff don't deserve to go through that. They are hard working people who put on a good show at Pohlman Field. The word you hear is that they don't draw well in Beloit. I suppose that may be true, but I saw a good crowd on Saturday night and an even much better crowd on Sunday. Fireworks Saturday night and a Prince Fielder "BobbleArm" promotion Sunday probably helped, but all minor league teams rely on promotions to draw crowds. It was fun to see the hard work of the Snapper staff rewarded by appreciative crowds.

The problem is the stadium, not the Snappers operation or the fans themselves. Pohlman Field is beyond outdated. I've heard it said that it's the "worst" facility among the 16 teams in the MWL. I've only been to three of them, so I can't speak to how accurate that is. I know it's tough to come up with funds to build new ballparks or even remodel old ones to bring them up to acceptable standards. I don't know if Beloit will ever solve that problem. I hope they do.

But professional baseball is a business. A dozen years ago, Cedar Rapids faced losing its team if it didn't replace their old stadium. The same choice has faced a number of other MWL communities over the past 20 years. Some, like CR, built new ballparks. Some, like Davenport, remodeled old ones. Others determined that they simply could not raise the funds to do so and gave up their franchises to other communities that were able to provide appropriate facilities. I felt bad for some of those cities and I don't wish to see that kind of thing happen to Beloit. Whether the Twins stay there or elect to move their affiliation elsewhere, I hope Beloit can find a way to survive and eventually thrive as a member of the league.

So here are the pictures. Several of them, actually. I was going to just post a few but then I decided there's no reason to hold back. We don't pay for blog space by the inch around here.

- JC

This building serves as both the entrance to the ballpark as well as home to the team's administrative offices

Don't tell the people lined up long before gates opened Sunday that the Snappers can't draw a crowd

Here's what the crowd was hoping for. The first 500 fans got Prince Fielder "Bobblearm" figures

The Sunday crowd at Pohlman Field

The concourse area inside the gate, but outside the stadium itself. Yes, it did rain hard on Saturday, but the staff got the field ready well before scheduled game time.

The players walk through the concourse behind the stands to get from their locker rooms to the dugouts, giving fans lots of opportunities for autographs

Young fans exchange high fives with Snappers players as they walk from their outfield pregame stretching to their dugout

Saturday's starting pitcher Jason Wheeler gave up 2 runs in the first inning, then went on to strike out 10 hitters in eight innings of work.

Manager Nelson Prada and Hitting Coach Tommy Watkins

David Hurlbut went six innings Sunday, giving up just one run on two hits, while striking out five Rattlers

Drew Leachman had supporters from Alabama on hand Saturday night. Made my little drive seem pretty insignificant

Catcher Jairo Rodriguez had warm duty on Sunday afternoon

1B Kennys Vargas' solo HR accounted for the only Snapper run on Saturday night.

Eddie Rosario seems to be more comfortable at 2B than when I saw him in CR early in the season.

Sunday, it was Miguel Sano's turn to "go yard"
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  1. MWLFan's Avatar
    I agree with comments on the Snappers staff. These folks work very hard for low pay, some of it is just out of the love for what they do and they are really class acts. In the years I have been going to Snappers games if you watch them closely you can see how much work is put into entertaining you by these people. There aren't many of them and they do everything. It would be sad for us to see them leave Beliot, but the stadium and the player facilities need to be upgraded and I don't see that area of Wisconsin coming up with $$ to do so. It has a lot of other needs ahead of a minor league ball park. My 8 year old has grown up going to Snappers games and we might go for him, but I will switch to whatever team the Twins are affilated with and start trekking taht way. (Hoping Cedar Rapids. Much easier drive and better stadium then Clinton.)
  2. jtrinaldi's Avatar
    CR is the likely destination, they are the only city in the Western MWL that offers a direct flight from minneapolis. The Twins are all but done with Beloit.
  3. glunn's Avatar
    Great pictures and an interesting article.

    It will be sad if the Twins leave, but it's also sad that the city won't come up with some cash to fix the facility. I would guess that visiting Twins fans contribute a lot to the local economy.

    I am tempted to buy a Snappers jersey before it's too late.
  4. Head First's Avatar
    Those are some good pictures Jim. Gosh that is a long line of fans. I visited Beloit about a month or so ago with my son and took in a couple of games. My pictures being nowhere near the quality of yours. Great time though! Thanks for posting.
  5. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    Thanks, HF. That picture actually doesn't do the line justice. I arrived just before the gates opened and it took over half an hour from the time I got in line before I was inside the gate. With room for just two people to take tickets, progress was slow. I was in line when I saw the Tweets about Valencia being traded, however, so I was able to have some interesting conversations with other Twins fans nearby when that news broke. At least it kind of helped pass the time
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