A Road Trip to Beloit
by, 08-07-2012 at 11:23 AM (1265 Views)
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 Pohlman Field is beyond outdated.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.
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"