With a night off, and two DRS playoff games a few miles away from each other (one in Montgomery, one in Veseli), with a half-hour between start times, I saw a great opportunity to check out two ballparks within about an hour of home that I’d been meaning to get to. With Marty stuck slinging drinks, I decided to bring my faithful travel companions Maybelle and Skeeter along for the ride.
First, we hit Montgomery, a rural community due south of New Prague, and home to the Montgomery Mallards, who were hosting (but serving as the visiting team) the fun-loving, hard-luck Webster Sox, who had just snapped a historic 51-game losing streak against league opponents a week earlier. I’d been told Montgomery had a nice ballpark, but Memorial Park was so much more than I’d expected. A gorgeous midwestern yard, with a lovely wooden grandstand painted in familiar ballpark green, ivy-covered fences, cheap beers at the concession stand, and a pack of loyal fans dressed in their Mallard attire, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the atmosphere. From its tunnel-like entrance, opening up right behind the action at home plate, to its rugged light standards, to the spruce trees along the fence and the industrial smokestack looming over third base, Memorial Park is a true diamond in the rough. Easily the most pleasant surprise of my recent baseball adventures, and the most underrated park in southern Minnesota.
The strange alternating sequence of bright evening sun and dark clouds added a bizarre ambiance to a well-played contest, with Webster fighting for their season in a win-or-go-home scenario. The dogs and I stayed for 3 1/2 innings, in which Montgomery had opened up a small lead. The Mallards would go on to win 2-o, sweeping the best-of-three series and ending Webster’s season.
The girls and I hopped back in the car and headed a few miles northeast to the unincorporated community of Veseli, home of the Warriors, who were playing host to the Union Hill Bulldogs, and facing elimination in their 3-game series. Veseli’s ballpark is the quintessential farm town yard. Sitting unassumingly along county road 52, beside an old Lutheran cemetery, it is the simplest of townball parks. A basic shelter covers sets of aluminum bleachers behind home plate, a cinder-block concession stand offers beers and fresh-off-the-grill hot dogs and pickled eggs, and the numbers on a tiny manual scoreboard are flipped to tally each runner that crosses the plate. With the souls of the departed keeping a close eye on the score from along the third-base line, and work-clothed locals following every pitch, Veseli Ballpark is an enormously charming, and delightfully archaic field.
Union Hill ran away with the game, trouncing the Warriors 12-2 in 7 innings to advance, and the night was over prematurely. Happy to have visited two fantastic ballparks in one evening, though hungering for more baseball, I loaded up the girls and headed home to plot my next outing.
See you next year, Sox and Warriors.
Full photo gallery here.