Posted on April 22, 2012 by CJ Siewert
When traveling on Minnesota Highway 68, which runs east-to-west from Mankato to the South Dakota border past Canby, you won’t be driving through many big cities. New Ulm and Marshall are practically the only two towns on that stretch of highway you wouldn’t miss if you closed your eyes for more than a few moments. What you would be passing through, though, is some of the most prideful communities of amateur baseball with long-lasting traditions. Milroy, a town of less than 300 people just a few miles east of Marshall, is one of those communities and the people in the Milroy area now have something to be even more proud of.
The Milroy Irish, who formed in 2009, are completing the final steps of their brand new field, the Irish Yard. The team will dedicate its new ballpark on Saturday, June 2 with a doubleheader against Gopher League opponents Tracy Express and Minneota Mudhens. The Irish Yard, which lies approximately five miles from Milroy off Highway 19 in Redwood County, was built to accommodate the playing schedule of the newly formed Irish.
“The Milroy Yankees, who have been the main amateur team in town since 1955, had 22-plus players on their roster so we thought it would be a good idea to have another team,” Irish Manager Bob Dolan said. “I’ve got three boys that were sophomore to senior high at the time and my brother had his two sons who had a lot of friends that wanted to play baseball, so we thought we’d open a new team in 2009.”
The nickname “Irish” came from Milroy’s original team, which it used from 1945-1954. In the last season of being called the Irish in 1954, Bob’s father, Joe Dolan, and his uncles played on the Class B State Championship team, defeating St. Joseph in the title game. The name was changed to “Yankees” in 1955.
When the second Milroy team was formed in 2009, the Irish played at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall because they couldn’t work out a schedule with the Yankees. But with such a great tradition of baseball in Milroy, the Dolan’s, who now have seven family members on the Irish club, thought it was a great opportunity to construct a new field.
“We talked to a neighbor of mine who lives just down Highway 19 and she was going to cut away from her farmland, which is a pretty neat area with a feeling similar to that of the Field of Dreams in Iowa because it is literally cut out of the corn field,” Dolan mentioned. “We purchased that in 2010 and started working on the field in August that year.”
When the land was purchased in July 2010, the field had three-foot beans in it. The farmer was not supposed to plant the beans and had to mow them over with a side-cutter. “I’m sure the farmers thought we were crazy,” noted Dolan.
With the field near completion now, it has a few unique features that would give you the feeling of watching a game in the MLB American League East. The grandstand will have 72 seats from the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards and the scoreboard, which is a large 56-by-20-foot display, looks like the old Boston Red Sox’ “Green Monster” board with the numbers that drop from behind. The scoreboard will also have the Gopher League standings on the right side.
The Irish acquired the seats from Camden Yards through a company in Illinois that takes down old stadiums and provides renovations. “Camden Yards updated and remodeled a portion of the stadium and that’s where the seats came from,” Dolan said. “They’re dark green, which works great for us since we’re the Irish and after contacting them, they secured 72 seats for us. We’re selling those seats for season ticket holders. For the first year, if you buy a seat for $50, you own your own seat. You also get into the games for free with a free pop or beer and free hot dog at every game. We’ve sold about 50 of the 72 already and we’re trying to get those last seats left taken care of.”
Coming up with the money to finance the construction was no easy task. The players and members of the Irish organization have worked the concession stands at Minnesota Twins and Vikings games since 2008 to help fundraise. About 16 people made the three-hour trip to the Twin Cities for each game to sell hot dogs and beer. Milroy also received a $10,000 grant from the Twins to build the field. Local businesses and community members in the Milroy area contributed to the fundraising efforts as well.
Once the field is complete, the Irish will have a ballpark to call their own. But that’s not to take away from other teams in the area that need a place to play.
“We definitely want to have youth games on the field as well,” Dolan acknowledged. “It’s primarily for the Irish, but we plan on having the District Legion tournament there next year. We’ll probably offer the field to Wabasso or Lakeview to be able to get a couple B squad games in, so it’s nice to have an extra field when teams need to find a place to play.”
As for the up-keep and maintenance of the ballpark, there won’t be a shortage of Dolan’s willing to lend a hand. “I’ll be the main up-keep guy and I’ve got three boys who are all in college right now that enjoy helping out,” Dolan stated. “They’ve been a huge help. My oldest son, Anthony, has been in construction for the last six years so he’s been the main foreman. My brother Neil also lives three miles away, so my family will be taking care of the field on a regular basis.”
After the Irish start their 2012 campaign with 11 away games in the month of May, the team will return home for its inaugural game at the Irish Yard. Milroy will take on the Tracy Express on Saturday, June 2 with a 2:00 p.m. start time. Following that game will be a match-up with the Minneota Mudhens at 5:00 p.m.
“Everybody’s back from last year’s team that finished second in the Gopher League,” Dolan mentioned. “We’re pretty young as a group and have matured a bit over the past four years so it’ll be fun. It’s always exciting, we’ve got a great tradition here in Milroy and not many teams in the State can have two teams in a town of just 270 people. We’ve got a good mix of kids from Tracy, Milroy, Marshall and Cottonwood who are excited to get the season started and to play on a brand new field.”
So if you’re traveling down Highways 68 or 19 on June 2, stop by the new Irish Yard and grab a Brau Brothers beer and hot dog, then sit back and enjoy a pair of match-ups between Southwestern Minnesota amateur clubs who’s fans and communities invest more than just pride in their team.