Day Four – Game 1

As you walk in to Werner Park, you notice a wide open concourse behind the stands. It curves behind home plate and up both base lines. Nothing unusual about that, except it’s really wide, which is convenient. Plus, there’s nothing overhead, so you see signs everywhere alerting you to beware of foul balls. With no warning, two boys near a concession stand almost got nailed by a foul pop behind the plate.

Plus, waiting in line presents opportunities for conversation. A friendly woman behind us notices our UBT schedule and chats with us. We talk about our trip, about Rosenblatt Stadium, about her granddaughter, (one of the school children who sang an energetic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner).

We take our burgers and fries (and craft draughts) to our bleacher seats beyond the left field fence, where we sit among various school groups. Apparently, part of their ticket package includes hot dogs, because their daycare teachers were handing out loads of warm wrapped dogs from large cardboard boxes.

By the time Xavier Nady homers to give the Storm Chasers an early 1-0 lead, the sun shines brightly, reflecting off the bleachers. Memphis Redbird, Jamie Romak, ties it in the 4th with his own long ball. I’m a little sorry that Oscar Tavares is still hurt, but the level of talent and Major League experience on both teams impress.
Werner Park Action - Omaha, NE
The Family Fun Zone, which seems to accompany all Major and Minor League parks these days, remains active to our right, beyond several picnic tables. There’s also berm seating in both left and right fields past our “Fun Porch” bleachers.

A crisply played, sun-filled Game One of today’s doubleheader allows for a more leisurely drive to Game Two.


Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill – In Jeopardy?

Before we reach the southern border of South Dakota, the dark clouds begin to lift. The threat of rain continues, but small holes of blue sky appear.

Finally, we cross the Missouri River into Iowa and continue south through construction zones and more farms. But definitely more civilization, too; a different feel from the serenity offered by the vast prairies of North and South Dakota.

Omaha is famous, of course, for hosting the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium. I’ve been by the old girl (born in 1947), but never had an opportunity to catch a game there.

The College World Series has a new home. I’ve also been by it during construction. Rosenblatt (and its rich history), unfortunately, is to become an extended parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Such is progress.

And the Omaha Storm Chasers (formerly the Royals) moved into a new stadium near Papillion. As the sky brightens a bit, Mitch and I pull into the parking lot for today’s 1 PM start.

Wener Park Parking Lot - Omaha, Nebraska
From the lot at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo to here covers 430-some miles or about 6.5 hours of driving time. But after this game, we need to be back on the road to catch today’s second game at 7, in another city in yet another state.


Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Day-Night Twinbill Starts … Here

We drive out of Fargo. And we drive. Speed limit 75 MPH.

The only light comes from occasional lightning in the distance to our right, and then behind us as we drive some more. The lightning really illuminates the dense clouds on such a dark night.

We stop for fuel at an exit that features Dakota Magic Casino and a fuel stop. And nothing more. One tractor trailer is also fueling.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 – Day Four

Well after the clock strikes twelve Central Time, we pull in to our destination: Brookings, South Dakota. Christian checks us into our hotel.

After a short snooze, we awaken to a rainy Tuesday morning. We need to get back on the road to keep heading south, hugging the Dakota-Minnesota line.

In the gray daylight, large farm fields and occasional cattle dot both sides of the Interstate. The forecast is not very promising. Brief downpours accompany the dense cloud cover. Could I-29 lead to our first ever UBT rainout?

And we drive.


Brian Williams
From Deep Short

More Fargo Treasures

As much as we enjoy baseball on UBT, we relish the opportunity to talk with folks along the way. Dawn Morton, a Redhawks usherette for 17 of the team’s 18 years in Fargo-Moorhead, asks us about our trip along the third base concourse.
Dawn Morton with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

The buttons attached to Dawn’s lanyard represent her name tags over the years. You’ll also find one button with a completely different name. That’s the name you’re to use if you have a complaint!

Ed FItzgerald with Trippers - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

Soon after returning from the service, Ed won a golf tournament where he was teamed with members of the local television station. 30-some years later, Ed retired from that station. I concur from personal experience that your handicap can be a tremendous asset when seeking a position in broadcasting.

Ed casually mentions that he met Roger Maris and his family when Roger lived here. He also casually mentions that there’s a Maury Wills Museum under the ballpark. As rookies at Newman Outdoor Field, we would have never known.

Maury Wills Locker - Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

After the game, we say a fond farewell to Fargo, North Dakota. It’s time to begin the trek south to prepare for our Tuesday day-night doubleheader in two different cities.

The game cities alone span a 3.5 hour drive, but that’s merely the half of it. Literally.


Brian Williams

From Deep Short

Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks

Following a reflective and educational day in Fargo, we’re ready for baseball in another new park featuring another new UBT league: the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. On the campus of North Dakota State University, we pull into the parking lot across the street from Newman Outdoor Field.

Newman Outdoor Field - Fargo, ND

The clean, brick façade looks professional and inviting. Some tailgating with a taste from Mitch’s growler of North Country Brewing’s Firehouse Red ensue. Then, we cross the street and climb the stairs to the ticket window.

Newman Outdoor Field Action - Fargo, ND

The level of baseball impresses, too. Crisp defense and solid at bats.

Pitchers dominate tonight as the Lincoln Saltdogs dent the plate just once in the Redhawks 3-1 win. Jake Laber (2-1) picks up the win, pitching up to 89 mph into the 7th. Reliever Nathan Kilcrease whiffs four of the five Saltdogs he faces before two more penners salt away the win.

As impressed as we are with the on-field and concession products, Newman Outdoor Field offers more. Much more.


Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Fargo (Not the Movie)

If you’ve never been to North Dakota, the new state, Redhawks baseball and ballpark provide reason enough to visit Fargo. This is also a very special place for baseball historians.

This is where Roger Maris called home. This is where Roger excelled in high school football and played American Legion baseball. This is where Roger Maris is buried.

Roger Maris loved to play baseball. He shied away from the limelight into which he was thrust.

When first approached about the idea for a museum in Fargo, Roger declined. Finally, he agreed, as long as everything was free to the public. That’s why you’ll find the modest Roger Maris Museum inside West Acres Shopping Center. But what a treasure!

Roger Maris Museum - West Acres Shopping Center - Fargo, ND

The little banners above the showcase windows represent each historical home run in 1961. The glass below reveals a photo of a smiling Roger with friend, Mickey Mantle; sports publication cover photos; a high school football jersey; many charity golf tournament pics; and, even a representation of Roger’s locker in the Yankee clubhouse.

In a small room between showcases, visitors may sit in authentic stadium seats to view a looped biographical video presentation. Family and post-baseball footage add as much as Roger’s baseball clips.

Trippers inside Roger Maris Museum - Fargo, ND

Roger’s professional career stats adorn a wall beside the video presentation. You can read his quotes with photos on the adjoining walls.
Mitch and I enjoy this leg of the trip so much that — after lunch at Spicy Pie and a stroll through downtown Fargo — we drive to Holy Cross Cemetery. Roger’s grave site isn’t difficult to find. Shaped like a baseball diamond, the inscription “61 in ’61” and “Against All Odds” are etched beneath the MARIS name. Mementos such as baseballs, golf balls, McFarlanes of Roger as both a Yankee and Cardinal, and red flowers surround the site.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

 

Go West

Sunday afternoon, June 2, 2013

Another ballpark where we’ve now enjoyed baseball. Another big home team victory.

Mitch and I leave Target Field to begin our three-hour journey to Fargo, North Dakota. You may be wondering how Fargo made it onto this itinerary.

As much as both of us have traveled, neither of us had ever set foot in either of the Dakotas. The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks would add another ballpark to our list of “been theres” and we’re excited to see them play.

But there’s also a very important historical baseball reason. More on that in the next post.

The sun remains before us as we drive westward through Minnesota. 30 minutes prior to sunset, we cross the Red River into Fargo.

Paradiso Mexican Restaurant adjoins our hotel parking lot, providing the perfect venue for Red Sox-Yankees Sunday Night Baseball (and rain delays). The tasty food and Dos Equis Amber top off a terrific UBT Day Two.
Brian Williams
From Deep Short

We’re Back

“How do you pronounce ‘Tomah,’ Wisconsin?” Mitch asks the woman at the hotel’s front desk. “TOE’-mah” comes the reply. “Hell, if you live here.”

Seems quaint and peaceful enough to house the tripsters for the first night of UBT; plus, we always enjoy a fine sense of humor. Besides, Tomah — with its forests, farms and wooden lodges — gives us a jump on getting to Minneapolis when the gates open at Target Field. Sunday, June 2, features a 1:10 start to wrap up the Mariners series.

It isn’t that we’re any more eager to see a new Major League ballpark. It’s just that there’s more square footage to explore than in the more intimate venues.

We arrive soon after the gates open, but do we enter? Not on UBT. We take a stroll around the outside of the ballpark, which unveils several treasures: banners of many key Twins players over the years hang neatly on a fence toward a construction site; statues of the most highly regarded Twins dot the landscape at various gates; and, families are everywhere.Minnesota Twins Sign - Target Field - Minneapolis, MNToday’s giveaway? A Josh Willingham jersey for the youngsters. We see lots of cute young fans, from infants to Little Leaguers, donning them throughout our stay.

And, it’s good they have that extra layer. A stiff breeze accompanies the bright sunshine all day.

Our seats are second deck in the shade in right field. Folks are wrapped in blankets.

After an inning or two, Mitch and I begin our trek around the inside of this fairly new park. It reminds me somewhat of Nationals Park, but is less conventional.Target Field Action - Minneapolis, MNNooks and crannies and small, exclusive sections dot the various tiers. Open concourses can accommodate large moving crowds.

One can enjoy the action all around the park on both levels as there’s plenty of room behind the seating. That’s our mission the remainder of the game. Areas in the sun feel most comfortable.Twins Lefty Connects - Target Field - Minneapolis, MNI’m not sure if the wind assisted, but the home team launches four bombs to back Scott Diamond in a 10-0 shellacking. Mitch and I don’t believe the wind is a factor for any of them.

As the game winds down, we’re in center field, where a friendly usherette directs us to get our “First Time at Target Field” certificates. A pleasant couple asks about our trip. They notice our next destination, their home town.

Brian Williams
From Deep Short

Utlimate Baseball Trip – This is Still Day One?

Our next official stop is a parking lot in Madison, WI. After listening to some Saturday afternoon MLB games, this is where UBT13 baseball truly begins.

We exit toward a sandlot ball field where a couple of youngsters have a pre-game catch. Families picnic and relax beneath the trees.

Mitch pulls two tee shirts from a box. Tees with a baseball logo on front and game schedule on back are UBT tradition since our very first trip.Official UBT 2013 ShirtFolks approach the wearer, both on and even well after UBT, to ask questions and validate our obsession. We hear a lot of “I always wanted to do that.” As you’ll continue to read, Mitch and I don’t just want.

Turning behind us, we soak in the Duck Pond, aka Warner Park. As we approach the entrance, we feel an energy that never dissipates throughout our incredible evening.

The LaCrosse Loggers and Madison Mallards line up on each baseline for pre-game. The area behind the concourse is packed with a variety of concessions and paying customers.Warner Park 1st Base Crowd - Madison, WINorthwoods League college wood bat baseball is alive and doing quite well in Madison, averaging 6,200 energetic fans per game. Tate Matheny (Mike’s son), a freshman at Missouri State, roams the Mallards outfield.

Mitch and I soak in a quick top of the first from the concourse railing behind home plate. As we prepare to head for our seats, an usher notices the UBT itinerary on our backs.Warner Park Warmups - Madison, WIChris Burwell, the usher, takes us aside. More UBT magic.

Following a quick introductory chat, he has someone that he wants us to meet. Who’s talking with a sponsor a few steps away? Steve Schmitt, the Mallards friendly owner, who quickly asks Chris to grant us VIP treatment. General Manager, Conor Caloia, also stops by for an introduction.

Chris carefully fits Mitch and me with wristbands and shows us upstairs to a sprawling deck behind home plate called the Tricor/West Bend Club. We enjoy the game, conversing with other fans and staff, and the goodies from here until the final out is recorded in the Mallards’ easy 9-1 win.


Brian Williams

From Deep Short

Ultimate Baseball Trip 2013 – Day One

Waking up in Tomah, Wisconsin – Part Deux

Seven minutes into UBT13, we get a flat tire. Besides an occasional cranky laptop, this is the first mechanical challenge on one of these trips. Apparently, we were overdue.

We never submitted resumes to Daytona, but we’ve done this before. Except, never on a busy highway entrance ramp with a rusted post holding the spare captive. After just under a two hour delay, the proverbial tarp comes off and we’re back on the road.

Our first destination? Paul’s Family Restaurant in Elgin, IL.Pauls Family Restaurant, Elgin, ILAs you can imagine, we enjoy unique experiences on UBT, so I point out to Mitch a certain sandwich I espy on the menu: apples, bacon and cheddar cheese on multi-grain toast. Both of us plan to concoct these tasty treats at home. After all, it’s the simple things in life, right?

Our first “official UBT” destination? New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI. Before and after miles of farmland is nestled a large, almost fairy tale-esque building with a gift shop, tasting room, self-guided tours and a patio.New Glarus Brewing Company EntranceThe building and fairly large stone parking lot come into view as you wind back a lane, hidden from the two-lane highway. I believe I saw more people there than at O’Hare.

At least I saw more people having fun on that patio on a beautiful sun-filled afternoon. Black Top IPA tops my list of offerings. If this were a beer-tasting blog, I’d share more about their various styles.New Glarus Brewing GlassesSuffice to say our first cold pints of UBT13 lead to a pair of souvenir glasses. (Hey, it’s their 20th anniversary.)

Brian Williams
From Deep Short