Monday, June 29, 2015

Joe Faber Field

All photos of Joe Faber Field available on Flickr.

Megan and I went to visit her family in central Minnesota this past weekend, and we took in a St. Cloud Rox game with the clan while we were up there.  I learned a couple of interesting hometown area baseball tidbits during our trip.  #1 - the Rox started playing in a new ballpark 8 years ago and I had no idea.  All this time I had been looking forward to writing the name "Dick Putz Field" as many times as possible the day we finally made it to this park, and here I come to find out they play in a newer stadium right next door.  From the looks of it though, it was a good thing.  #2 - apparently her small town of Cold Spring has a 90+ year history of town ball and is equipped with a legit ballpark that hosts 3 amateur teams.  Three teams!  Milwaukee is 150X its size and doesn't even have three teams.  We drove by it on Saturday night and it looked super fun; I'm pumped to go to a game there next summer.

But let's rein it in here and get back to St. Cloud.  Joe Faber Field was constructed in 1998 and has been host to the Rox since 2007 following a renovation.  Together with their former home Dick Putz Field a mere 200 feet away, an ice arena, and a golf course, these facilities comprise the Municipal Athletic Complex, which is on the west side of town.  Faber and Putz also combine to host the St. Cloud State University ball team as well as a lot of regional high school tournaments.  Although not glamorous by any means, Joe Faber looks to be a vast improvement over their old home, and in retrospect I am glad I got to see a game in the newer park as opposed to when Erik visited Dick Putz Field about 10 years ago, back when the Rox were called the River Bats.  St. Cloud changed their team name to the Rox in 2012 to pay homage to the former Rox minor league club that ceased operation in 1971.  St. Cloud has a long history of minor league baseball, like most teams in the Northwoods League do - many of which I'm learning were affiliates of the nearby Twins.

We met all of my soon-to-be in-laws at the park around 5:45 for a 6:05 game.  Normally I like to get to a park I am visiting the first time as close to gates open as possible, but as I could tell when I got inside, I wouldn't really need that much time to walk around.  You emerge through the main gate into a large low-ceiling volume that houses the main concession stand and some souvenir racks, and that's really all there is to the park aside from the grandstand.  This is something you commonly see at an older park like a Wade Stadium or a Carson Park, and when a ballpark has age this can be charming.  But for a park that isn't even 20 years old it seemed very odd and cheap, and makes it feel much more outdated than it already is.  The first thing you see when you walk into a stadium shouldn't be basically a giant white waiting room with acoustical tile ceiling.  To either side of this "room" are tunnels that ramp up and emerge into the grandstand.  Once you are at your seat surveying the field, it looks and feels a lot like old Midway Stadium in St. Paul, and the between-innings entertainment was nearly as zany to match.  The major difference would be that instead of train tracks and industrial wasteland, you have a pretty view of trees and a golf course.  Joe Faber Field also has a fairly elaborate party deck along the 3rd base line.  Most parks in the Northwoods League have an all-you-can-eat section, but it is usually is just a glob of picnic tables.  Here it is a tiered system that allows good views to the field and also extends over the visitors dugout.  Aside from the party deck, I was definitely keenly aware here just how many aspects of the ballpark I had seen copied from others of a similar size and age.  Maybe this was a conscious strategy by the designer or maybe it was just lazy, or maybe being an architect who's visited over 120 stadiums is finally making me crazy.

The matchup pitted the Rox against the Blue Anchors, who have improved considerably since we saw them about this time last year in Alexandria with only 5 wins.  Andrew Clemen was mowing 'em down for the home team, striking out 7 in 6.1 innings.  It was easy to see that he had good stuff and was fooling a lot of hitters, but his stressful arm motion was even more noticeable to me.  It's little things like that that keep kids in this league from getting drafted.  Clemen's counterpart Sean Terres nearly matched him, striking out 7 in 6 innings but with 3 walks.  In the 8th inning with the game knotted at 1-1, Luke Petterson led off the top half of the inning with a single, advanced on a sac bunt, and scored on a throwing error by the shortstop.  We left after the 3rd out because of a threat of rain, but that proved to be the winning run as Alex held on for the 2-1 victory.

If we were talking about a minor league park, this would have been near the bottom of my list.  But for the Northwoods League, Joe Faber Field more than adequately serves its tenants and its community despite its shortcomings.  It is affordable and quality family entertainment in a neighborhood setting, and at its core there is not much more you need at a baseball game.

park rankings and statistics: 
aesthetics - 3
views from park – 6
view to field - 5 (fence not net)
surrounding area – 3
food variety - 2
nachos - 2
beer - 4 (low variety, $5.75 for craft beer here is absurd) 

vendor price - 10
ticket price - 5 (again, $10 not bad but for this park it is absurd)
atmosphere - 6
walk to park – 5 (golf course)
parking price/proximity - 8 (free lot, but shared within complex so it is crowded)
concourses - 1
team shop - 5 (nice stuff but not an actual shop)

best food – kosher hot dog
most unique stadium feature – "Terrace" party deck
best jumbotron feature – n/a
best between-inning feature – kids giant undies race

field dimensions – 315/401/325
starters – Sean Terres (ALX) v. Andrew Clemen (STC)
opponent – Alexandria Blue Anchors
time of game – 2:31
attendance – 1781
score – 2-1 L

Brewers score that day – 5-2 L

Brewers 29-48, -23.0 (4 @ Phillies, 3 @ Reds)
Reds 34-40, -16.5 (3 v. Twins, 3 v. Brewers
Twins 40-35, -5.5 (3 @ Reds, 4 @ Royals)

Erik - 13 (+15 worked)

Peter - 25

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