photos by Eric Kraushar, Chaska Herald
-- by Eric Kraushar, courtesy of the Chaska Herald
Cheese curds stocked. Beer cooler full. Field dragged and lined. Flip on the scoreboard and microphone and wait for the umpire to yell “play ball!”
As the day began July 15, Cologne had no idea what to expect for a late afternoon rescheduled contest with Spring Hill of the Stearns County League.
Billed “Fill the Hill” night, the Hollanders hoped for a good crowd. When a bus full of Spring Hill players and fans showed up, everyone involved knew they were in for a fun night.
A 4 p.m. game start, by the time the bus pulled away the sun had set on the horizon, the lights were turned off around 9:30 p.m. Around 60 servings (12 ounce bags) of cheese curds were sold.
Opponents for 2 1/2 hours. Friends for two more.
This folks is town team baseball.
This is baseball in the Crow River Valley League.
The Crow River Valley League dates back to the 1920s, a time when hired pitchers dominated for the larger teams in the area.
As of 2015, the league featured 15 teams, many along Highway 212 and Highway 7. Brownton and Glencoe to the west, Green Isle and Hamburg to the south, Cologne and Carver to the east and St. Boni and Watertown to the north.
And every town in between.
Jeremy Stender, general manager at KGLB 1310 out of Glencoe, regularly calls games on the radio along with Chris Dammann, a board member in Hamburg and co-chair of the 2017 State Tournament.
Growing up, going to the ballpark on a Sunday afternoon was life.
“My dad played for Young America, Carver and Norwood over the course of his career and played into his early 40s. My uncle to this day, in his 60s, still helps coach the Young America Cardinals, while two of my cousins still play and one currently manages the team. I serve on its board of directors,” he said.
Town team baseball is a family affair. And that’s especially true in the Crow River Valley League. More times than not, the son is on the field, the dad is a manager and the mom is running the concession stand.