On the Road: Back to the Basics in Beloit

Beloit was a late addition to my road trip itinerary, as originally I had planned to drive east from Appleton and then take a car ferry over Lake Michigan and into the state which bears its name. And once I did add Beloit to the itinerary, I was met with a lot of comments along the lines of “Beloit? Why?” and “Good luck with that one.”

The snarky tone directed toward Beloit stems from the fact that the Snappers are a community-owned team playing in a no-frills ballpark located in a town in which not much is going on from a tourism standpoint. But you know what? Pohlman Field has a lot of charm, the throwback yang to the uber-modern yins we shall see in future posts from this trip. I was grateful to have visited, and would recommend that you do the same should the opportunity arise.

180 Pohlman Field is located smack dab in  the middle of a residential neighborhood. Streetside parking abounds amid the abodes.

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The above two photos were actually taken at the end of my Sunday afternoon at Pohlman Field, once the weather had turned overcast. But when I arrived it was a bright and borderline uncomfortable hot summer day:

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Pohlman Field’s closest reference point is Burlington’s Community Field, and if you aren’t familiar with that locale then please click HERE for a post on my 2010 visit. The fact that such facilities can exist within the same circuit as 21st-century standouts like Great Lakes and Fort Wayne is one of the reasons that the Midwest is one of my favorite leagues in all of Minor League Baseball. It’s diverse, I tell you. Diverse.

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As is often the case with older ballparks, the player locker rooms are located in a separate edifice from the stadium itself. This means that the players must pass through a gauntlet of autograph seekers en route to the playing field.

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My FOB (that’s First Order of Business, for those not familiar with the nuances of blogspeak) was to interview a couple of pitchers on the bizarre rituals and secret games of the Beloit bullpen.

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That’s Dakota Bacus (now in the starting rotation) on the left and Taylor Vail on the right. The article based on our conversation has yet to be written, but it is Part Two of a planned “Bullpen Trilogy” that began with the Timber Rattlers and concludes in Lansing.

After talking to these upstanding gentleman, I made my way to the stands to talk to a ballpark character of an entirely different variety. Meet 99-year-old Grace Phillips, a Pohlman Field mainstay since the Snappers’ inaugural 1982 season:

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My story about Grace HAS been written, and can be found HERE.  And see the bell in her hand there? She brings it to every game and rings it in support of the hometown club, and in honor of this longstanding routine the Snappers gave away “Grace Phillips Cowbells” on June 30 (one week after I was there).

Grace had the right idea wearing that hat, as the sun was out in full force during the early portion of the afternoon. But stifling heat aside, it really was a beautiful day.

The visiting Peoria Chiefs:

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A view of the grandstand:

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A jokester in the bullpen messing around with his body-shrinking baseball glove:

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The denizens of the bullpen are also a patriotic bunch, as they make sure to wave the flag during each and every Pohlman Field National Anthem rendition.

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And upon the conclusion of the anthem came a little ditty by the CEO of Maybach Music.

Nothing left to do now but play ball!

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Chris Bostick and friend:

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And with the game underway, it was of course time to explore the culinary options.

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In advance of my visit the team actually modified the concession menu to reflect the gluten-free offerings, which I appreciated. (Thanks to community relations director Natalie Tobey for spearheading that effort.)

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On the gluten-free front, I opted for this time-honored alliterative combination:

But clearly there was much more that needed to be highlighted, which means that it’s Designated Eating time! I already wrote a bit about this in the aforementioned MiLB.com piece that also included Grace Phillips. Allow me to excerpt from it here, with pictures:

The Snappers are a community-owned non-profit, governed by a 17-member board of directors, and many of the gameday employees are volunteers. One such volunteer is Jon Pingel, who, along with his wife Erin, helps to coordinate the team’s concession operations. In addition to scheduling the shifts of other volunteers, the Pingels work at the concession stands at about a dozen games a season and receive a season pass in exchange for their efforts.

Pingel volunteered to be my “designated eater” for Sunday’s ballgame, sampling some of the Snappers’ concession delicacies that my gluten-free diet prohibits. After a stop at the Firehouse Grill concession shack located down the first-base line, he returned with both a Snappy Burger as well as a True Wisconsin.

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True Wisconsin on the left, Snappy Burger on the right

The Snappy Burger is a cheeseburger topped with a brat that has been split down the middle, while the True Wisconsin is a burger topped with American cheese, nacho cheese and fried cheese curds. Wisconsin indeed.

“Is there such a thing as too much cheese?” Pingel asked rhetorically before trying the True Wisconsin, but he ultimately chose the Snappy Burger as superior because “nothing screams summer more. … It’s the ultimate ballpark food.”

Pingel in action:

After taking leave of Mr. Pingel, I was able to get this shot of Snappy in his natural habitat. Wildlife photography at its finest!

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And speaking of big game hunting, the Snappers’ starting pitcher on this afternoon was 6’8″ Michael Ynoa (he has since been promoted to Stockton).

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As the afternoon wore on, a storm moved in and a rain delay seemed imminent. But this rain delay, somewhat miraculously, never occurred. The baseball gods were with Beloit on this particular afternoon.

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I greatly enjoyed the ambiance of Pohlman Field, and would recommend it to anyone seeking a dose of small-town Minor League Baseball. But as is so often the case with teams operating with a small staff and a tight budget, the overall presentation was a little rough around the edges. I took most of it in stride, but lost my patience a little bit when the PA announcer talked over the entirety of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” C’mon man!

The Snappers’ took a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning on the strength of Bostick’s two-run single, and that turned out to be the final score. Good game, guys, good game.

169The defeated Peoria Chiefs had to walk through the Chain Link Fence of Shame, en route to the visitor’s dugout.

170As they did so, this gentleman was given the opportunity to hit a ball off of a tee. If said ball cleared the fence, then he’d win a car.

171He was unsuccessful.

This was followed by Launch-A-Ball, as a backpack-wearing bullpen denizen looked on.

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175And then, because too much is never enough, Run the Bases!

177And THAT was all she wrote, if she is me and I am he and we are all together. Thanks for reading, time to exit stage left.

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twitter.com/bensbiz

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

8 Comments

Pingback: Ballpark Visit ALERT: Pohlman Field (Beloit, WI) |

I was there back in April. Yes, the field has some charm. The food not so much. In the past few years I have traveled a lot for baseball games and a big majority of the parks have really stepped up the game when it comes to food and ballpark ammenities. Earlier in the day I was in Davenport, IA to watch Carlos Correa and the Quad City River Bandits play. To go from there where the park rested against the Mighty Mississippi and the food was to die for (huge brat under $5.00), to Beloit where I almost did not find the park and the food was… Well, I could not believe I paid for a Nacho Chicken Dog that was just a hotdog bun, chicken tender, and nacho cheese ($3.75).
I do appreciate your story. But let us be honest here, the Athletics should really upgrade this park and make it a great attraction to pull in fans of all types and definitely revise the menu options as well.

The Athletics have nothing to do with Pohlman Field.

Thank you very much for visiting us here in Beloit at Pohlman Field. We are very sorry to hear that you had a subpar experience with the food you sampled while attending our game. We are a Not-For-Profit community owned baseball team and we strive to make sure everyone in the Stateline Area can enjoy a baseball game at an affordable price. While we are unable to offer some of the modern amenities that the newer stadiums in the Midwest League have we do have our own niche. We are one of the few stadiums you will find that doesn’t charge anything for parking. We also offer tickets for as low as $5.50 if you purchase your ticket at least one day in advance, and that is one of the lowest ticket prices you will find for a professional sporting event in the Midwest. We are also one of only a few stadiums that doesn’t have a tunnel from the clubhouse to the dugouts so our players must walk through the concourse and among the fans to get to and from the dugout. This feature allows our fans some of the most up close contact with players that you will find in Minor League Baseball.

Due to our Not-For-Profit status we aren’t able to make all of the necessary upgrades to our facility at one time but we are well aware of the shortcomings we have here at Pohlman Field. One of those shortcomings is the lack of a full-service kitchen, which is now a common feature for newer ballparks. Because we don’t have that amenity we have to be creative with the equipment we do have. So we take things that we already have on the menu and attempt to make new options by combining some of those items. Sometimes we hit a home run and sometimes we strike out but we try to keep things fresh! We also have dedicated a lot of time and money during the last few months in an effort to fix up our now more than 30 year old stadium. We installed a brand new playing surface for the players in the fall along with a fresh coat of paint and a heavy cleaning of our clubhouse. We also freshened up the bathrooms with fresh paint and some heavy cleaning. We are scheduled to have our concourse completely re-done in the fall as well with concrete set to replace the existing black top.

We are a proud partner of the Oakland Athletics but the facility is the responsibility of the Beloit Snappers and we are doing our best to maintain it for the foreseeable future. We hope that you visit our stadium again and enjoy the atmosphere of small town baseball that is hard to find these days. And maybe give another one of our food creations a try, the Snappy Burger gets rave reviews in Wisconsin!

Kindest Regards

When do the Athletics upgrade anything with $

Pohlman takes you back when the minors were considered the bush leagues

I remember Grace from my visit to Pohlman a few years ago. There was also Captain ‘K’ who was super nice to us, and some big by with a tuba in the grand stand. The Snappers is a great Minor League experience.
-Mike

http://minoringinbaseball.com/

I can not wait to visit Pohlman and see a Snappers game. Thanx for the review Ben. Natalie Tobey, please do not change the menu too much…Im already craving both the True Wisconsin and Snapper burgers. Ill have to be sure to get there early for one before the game and the other during the stretch.

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