Monday, July 20, 2009

Mayo Field

All photos of Mayo Field available on Flickr.

Last week, I found myself in a predicament that usually rolls around about once a season: everybody is on a long road trip! There was no way that I was going to go two whole weeks between games, particularly since I don't get Brewers telecasts in Waterloo, so I began scouring various leagues, looking for a team within two hours of me that I could make it to if I left work right at 5. I finally coersed myself into taking Yeller up to Rochester, MN (which was surprisingly only two hours away) to see the Honkers of the Northwoods League, muttering "I'm insane" and changing out of my work clothes during the entire drive up US-63.

I arrived at the ballpark about ten minutes late, and the Honkers were just coming up to bat in the 1st when I walked in. The parking situation there is very unique and confusing - your options, both for $2, are to park 20 feet from the 1st base foul line, or on the other side of the river and walk to the stadium via meandering cycle path. And also, there is no attendant, just one of those "honor system" things where you put your money in a numbered slot. I decided to choose the lot over the river since Yeller has enough dents in it already, and in the end it paid off as many cars were hit with balls during the game. The stadium itself is one of the worst I've been to in my entire life; it makes Pohlman Field look like Yankee Stadium. Erik was there a few years ago when he was working in Minnesota and warned me that it was a dump, and I guess I should have listened to him. It's kind of like Bosse Field in Evansville, without the charm and history. All of the vendors (actually, "vendor" singular) and the bathrooms are behind home plate under the grandstand, and seating is only available from 1st the 3rd base, with a fairly large party deck in left field. The stadium has clearly not undergone any significant renovations or additions since it opened, with the possible exception of the dugouts, and all of the seats are very close together, both horizontally and row-width. The aforementioned dugouts are above-ground like a little league would have, are too small to fit the entire team, and contain no protective fencing. The park's sorry excuse for suites are two wood-framed, vinyl-siding press boxes that were converted. There is not even really a main entry, you just sort of enter through a gate in the back. And on top of all that, that night was a tie for the record low temperature for that day in Rochester's recorded history. If I had not driven two hours to get there, I may very well have turned around and went to the bar when I got to the ticket window and saw that they were charging $6 for these shenanigans.

But, "any game anywhere anytime" are the words Erik and I live by, and apparently so also do Honkers fans. Somehow, Rochester has stayed competitive enough and have maintained a good enough attendance to be the longest tenure team in the Northwoods League at 16 seasons. The Honkers exemplify the formula for a successful minor/semi-pro ball team: good marketing and promotional calendar, cheap beer, entertaining mascot, and a sweet logo. It was packed on this night for Clapper Night against the St. Cloud River Bats, including the way-over-occupancy party deck. It was the fourth or fifth consecutive pitchers' duel I've seen, and the Honkers hung on for the 2-1 victory. There were three times as many strikeouts to hits in the game (17:6), and the 2-run first by the home team proved to be enough. Brian Flynn tossed 7 strong for the Honkers to earn the win, and Arik Sikula shut the door in the 9th for the save.

After the quick game, I drove back home to Waterloo, satisfied that I crossed another ballpark off the list that I never, ever have to go back to.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 1
views from park - 2 (houses)
view to field - 4 (close, but posts and dugouts in way, depending where you sit)
surrounding area - 5 (downtown is few blocks away, but I can't speak to its quality)
food variety - 3
nachos - 3 (come in bag with cup of cheese)
beer - 8 (only four kinds, but very cheap)
vendor price - 9
ticket price - 8 (all but first two rows are $6 GA)
atmosphere - 4
walk to park - 4
parking proximity - 7 (points deducted for foul-ball danger)
concourses - 2
team shop - 4 (team souvenir stand)

best food - mini-donuts
most unique stadium feature - hit sign in outfield, fan wins $10,000
best jumbotron feature - n/a
best between-inning feature - child races dogs to home plate

field dimensions - 310/390/310
starters - Kevin Johnson (STC) v. Brian Flynn (ROC)
opponent - St. Cloud River Bats
time of game - 2:16
attendance - 1255
score - 2-1 W
Brewers score that day - 9-6 W

Brewers 47-45, -3.0 (3 @ Pirates, 3 v. Braves)
Reds 44-47, -5.5 (3 @ Dodgers, 3 @ Cubs)
Twins 47-45, -2.0 (3 @ Athletics, 4 @ Angels)

Erik - 34 (+13 worked)
Peter - 42

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