Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tour 2010: Franklin Rogers Park

All photos of Franklin Rogers Park available on Flickr.

As usual, we made every effort to cram as much ball into our trip as possible, which meant a doubleheader on Sunday. When the Sunday Twins-Mariners game ended at a brisk pace of just over 2 hours, we knew we'd have plenty of time to make it down to Franklin Rogers Park for a 6:05 first pitch. It took me quite awhile to find where I parked and to find the freeway, but we still got to the park with about 20 minutes to spare. Mankato was only slightly out of the way on my way home to Waterloo, and the 90 minute drive took us through a very scenic route past rolling hills and forests.

To be honest, after a busy weekend with a lot of driving, and after just seeing two major league games in a beautiful new ballpark, part of me just wanted to go home and I was not too thrilled with the idea of stopping in Mankato. But when we got into the game action and I noticed all of the dirt cheap concessions, I was instantly reminded of why I loved the Northwoods League, and my attitude changed quickly. I won't lie and say that Franklin Rogers Park is a gem, but it was nicer than I expected and was definitely worth the stop. "The Frank" has a three-section covered grandstand setup similar to a lot of parks of its size (about 1400 capacity). There is also a picnic area down the left field line, and a private party deck on the roof of a concessions/restrooms building beyond first base. As you enter the stadium from the 1st base side, concessions are arranged around a paved square, mostly in tents. The team store is also unfortunately under a tent, but did have a pretty nice selection. I just could not pass up buying a Moondogs cap with that sweet logo of a lowercase 'm' set inside a crescent moon. From a fan's perspective, the park has been updated just enough over the years to be a very comfortable place to watch a ballgame. However, a major drawback from a player's perspective is that the stadium does not appear to have locker rooms, as visiting players had to change on the field following the game before getting on the bus. Franklin Rogers Park is in its 50th year and is operated by the Mankato Parks & Recrecation Dept. It served as the original home to the old Mankato Mets farm club in the 1960s, and then had no real permanent tenants besides high school teams until the Moondogs joined the Northwoods League in 1999.

The game pitted the hometeam Moondogs against the Border Cats of Thunder Bay, Ontario. We saw yet another strong pitching performance on this trip - this one was turned in by starter Blake Schwartz of Mankato, who also happens to attend nearby Minnesota State. He dazzled friends, family, and the home crowd by tossing a 2-hit shutout with no walks and 8 strikeouts. He unfortunately had to come out after 7.2 innings due to Northwoods League pitch count rules, but he was absolutely brilliant in the 5-0 win. The Moondogs got on the board with 3 in the 4th, and also notched single tallies in the 6th and 7th. Mike Moore went 2-4 with 2 RBI for the home team and was hitting .417 on the season as of Monday. The guy we saw start the game against the Lunkers in Brainerd, Jeff Deblieux, played right field and led off for the Border Cats in this game and went hitless.

After the game, I had about a 3-hour drive home, and Erik about 5. We were both very tired on Monday but what an excellent trip, 6 games in 5 days! I enjoyed all of the parks very much, except for Brainerd's. We are currently kicking the tires on a few ideas for next year's trip(s), but nothing is set in stone yet, so check back this offseason for more updates.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 4
views from park - 3
view to field - 5 (net & pole obstructions, lots of foul ground)
surrounding area - 3
food variety - 5 (one stand had state fair foods)
nachos - 5 (standard)
beer - 6 (Busch products only for $3.50)
vendor price - 8
ticket price - 9 ($6 GA)
atmosphere - 7
walk to park - 4 (walk from left field gate is nice)
parking proximity - 10 (adjacent lot for free)
concourses - 5
team shop - 5 (pts deducted for being a tent)

best food - cheese curds
most unique stadium feature - rooftop party deck, atop of which cameraman cheats death
best jumbotron feature - n/a
best between-inning feature - fans try to throw balls into back of groundskeeper vehicle from rooftop deck

field dimensions - 320/386/330
starters - Garrett Yount (TB) v. Blake Schwartz (MAN)
opponent - Thunder Bay Border Cats
time of game - 2:22
attendance - 914
score - 5-0 W
Brewers score that day - 5-2 L

Brewers 50-59, -11.0 (3 v. Astros, 4 v. Diamondbacks)
Reds 61-48, +1.0 (3 @ Cubs, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 59-48,
-1.5 (3 @ Indians, 3 @ White Sox)

Erik - 20
Peter - 39

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