KIP KOVAR: Amateur baseball and its parks never cease to amaze

Amateur baseball has always held a special place in the heart of Minnesotans. Whether you’re a father or mother of a ball player, a player yourself, or even just a local townie who just can’t get enough of watching the hometown nine, it holds a special place in our hearts.

The state amateur baseball tournament brings that all together, and it seemingly never gets old. As teams and fans come from all over the state to see some high-quality baseball, it’s the gorgeous parks the games are played at that sometimes go unnoticed.

Amateur baseball, and the Crow River Valley League in particular, never ceases to disappoint with countless beautiful ballparks just waiting to be enjoyed. Just ask Ryan Simonson and Marty Lambrecht of Minneapolis, better known as Ryno and Marty from the popular-growing Town Ball Tuesdays.

Green Isle will be on of three hosts for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament.  "The Yard" not only is a magnificent field for playing on, but also offers several different viewing angles for fans to enjoy.

Green Isle will be on of three hosts for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament. “The Yard” not only is a magnificent field for playing on, but also offers several different viewing angles for fans to enjoy.

Ryno and Marty, who have been friends for years, came up with the idea of Town Ball Tuesdays after discovering a love for small-town baseball. What started as an idea, quickly has Marty and Ryno running all around the state and getting requests from teams to come check out their parks at a constant rate.

“Marty and I have been friends for years,” Ryno said. “I’m a lifelong ballplayer and general baseball nut. We’ve done some camping and road trips together over the years, and we’ve always loved small towns and their great little bars and unique culture. When I got him (Marty) out to a town ball game, I think he started to get my passion for baseball a bit more.”

What started as just visiting parks and taking in games, grew to more as they wanted to be able to document their visits, and share their travels with people who love amateur baseball as much as they do.

“Eventually, we got to a point where we wanted to find a way to document and share our little stories about the parks, and the people, and Town Ball Tuesdays was born,” Marty said. “For me, there’s something kind of magical about the way these communities support baseball beyond just youth sports. It’s a sort of local pride and entertainment that came out in the 1800s, and for some reason, never died in Minnesota. I grew up primarily in Michigan, where there’s nothing like this at all. It’s beautiful to roll into a little town that is basically made up of a church, a cemetery, a bar, and an immaculately-cared-for baseball stadium.”

Amateur baseball hasn’t always been a major role in the lives of the creators of Town Ball Tuesdays, but since taking off, it’s become a family affair, as well.

“I’ve always been fortunate enough to bring my mom along sometimes,” Marty said. “She grew up going to games in all these same towns in her youth, and it’s great to hear her stories and learn how much it meant to her and her family. To have this town ball tradition right under my nose and to have no knowledge of it is a shame. If I can do anything to help spread the word and love of the game, I’m all for it. It’s such a treasure, that I feel is grossly under appreciated.”

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Hamburg is another one of the sites for the 2017 Amateur State Tournament. Hamburg offers a great setup for a hardcore or casual fan to enjoy a game.

Tuesdays were the night of choice for Ryno and Marty, as Tuesday is Marty’s night off from bartending. With the CRVL playing a multitude of Tuesday night games, the CRVL has become a favorite of the traveling duo.

“The CRVL is great because there tend to be a good number of games scheduled on Tuesday nights,” Ryno said. “All the parks are close enough to get out to for use, and the league boasts some of our favorite ballparks in the state.”

As far as their favorite park in the CRVL, well, that’s too tough of a decision to make based on the quality choices.

“That’s a tough call,” Ryno said. “I have sentimental attachment to Cologne, as Jason Kuerschner was one of the first people to really support what we’re doing with Town Ball Tuesdays and really make us feel welcome when we were just getting started. Young America’s park is really fun to be at. It’s so unique with its quirky little European village architecture. Add in the cozy dimensions, the home plate that’s so close to the grandstand that you can pick the umpire’s back pocket, you’ve really got just about everything we love in one package. Waconia has done such a great job with their overhaul, and Watertown, Brownton, and Glencoe all have amazing yards. Green Isle and Hamburg have really stepped up prepping for the tourney.”

“I can’t make that call as I still have a few yet to see,” Marty said. “I truly seem to find things to enjoy about each park. That’s the beauty in this. They’re all so unique in charmingly, subtle ways. The fun is in finding out what’s what, and taking in all the great viewing angles.”

The regular season has just been a warm-up for the Town Ball Tuesday crew. With the 2017 Minnesota Amatuer State Tournament being held in some of their favorite parks, you can count on Marty and Ryno to be out enjoying the game we all love and sharing their experiences.

“We’ll definitely be floating around during the tourney as much as possible,” Ryno said. “Last summer was our first covering the tournament as Town Ball Tuesdays, and we had a blast. Dassel, Hutchinson, and Litchfield really pulled out all the stops to make it a great tournament, and we got to meet so many wonderful people from all over the state, some of whom already knew about us.”

“As the tournament draws nearer, my excitement grows,” Marty said. “The atmosphere definitely swells to a fever pitch. All three of these towns are making painstaking efforts to put their best foot forward.”

You can follow Ryno and Marty on their adventures via their Twitter or blog.

Twitter: @TownBallTuesday

One comment

  1. Gail Lagges says:

    What a great story about such a great game. Thanks

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