By Mpls.St.Paul Magazine / Inspired by Kylie Bunbury’s My North
In the Fox show Pitch, 28-year-old Kylie Bunbury plays the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball. In the show, Bunbury, who grew up in Prior Lake (where her family still lives), takes the mound at one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country, San Diego’s PetCo Park. But Target Field in Minneapolis and CHS Field in St. Paul prove that an outdoor ballpark doesn’t need to be in SoCal to be beautiful. Here are five equally cool greater Minnesota town ball diamonds worth a drive.
Memorial Park Baseball Field, Howard Lake
About an hour due west of Minneapolis on Highway 12, the Howard Lake Orphans have one of the most unique outfield backdrops in all of Minnesota amateur baseball: the lake their town was named after. And it’s close enough that a well-popped dinger stands a chance of coming in for a splash landing. But that’s not the only thing that makes Memorial Park cool—it’s also got old-fashioned, flip-down ballpark seats. On the way into town, stop at Mexican/American food hybrid Frontera Cafe & Bistro. The Street Tacos (one barbacoa, one pork al pastor, one asada, and one carnitas) are killer.
Johnson Park, New Ulm
The blue collar German town of New Ulm (an hour and a half southwest of the Twin Cities) is always worth a visit, and this is especially true come baseball season. Built nearly 80 years ago, Johnson Park, the home of the Tomahawk East League’s New Ulm Brewers, is no worse for the wear. Set on a pristine perch overlooking the Minnesota River, it’s the perfect setting to enjoy a ball game. Conventional wisdom says that when in New Ulm, one must have a pint or two at Schell’s Brewery (and one really must!), but we think if you’ve only got time for one post-game New Ulm stop, it should be legendary supper club Veigel’s Kaiserhoff for Wiener schnitzel.
Jack Ruhr Field, Miesville
Home of the perennial Classic Cannon Valley League champs, the Miesville Mudhens, Jack Ruhr Field is the summer epicenter of the tiny southeastern Minnesota town of Miesville. And, literally surrounded by cornfields, what it lacks in fancy stadium trappings it more than makes up for in epic dusk views that go for miles across the farmland beyond the outfield. The power move when you’re heading to or from Miesville is to grab a burger at hole-in-the-wall bar King’s Place, which has been open in one way, shape, or form since the 1870s.
John Burch Park, Cannon Falls
The Classic Cannon Valley League is pretty much the gold standard of Minnesota town ball leagues, so it’s no wonder that another one of its teams, the Cannon Falls Bears, has a ballpark worth a visit. Located in Cannon Falls just off Highway 19—a stone’s throw from one of the more picture-perfect throwback main streets around—John Burch Park even has a mini Fenway Park Green Monster in the form of a 20-foot-tall wall in left field. Post game, head into downtown for something seasonal at the Cannon River Winery’s tasting room on Mill Street.
The Mini Met, Jordan
Not even an hour south of the Twin Cities is one of the most bucolic ballparks in the state. It’s got old-timey green wooden bleachers curving around home plate (rooftop awning and all) and a green wooden outfield fence to match. But what really sets the home park of the River Valley League’s Jordan Brewers apart on the quaint old-timey baseball spectrum is the fact that just beyond right field, in clear view from the bleachers, is the steeple of an old stone church. Oh, and while you’re in Jordan, make sure to stop by Jim’s Apple Farm, AKA “Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.” Seriously, it really is Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store.