A Saturday series exploring Minnesota's favorite season.
A well-hit ball comes off the wooden bat with a resounding crack! that would do Target Field proud. It prompts a volley of shouts, as fielders yell instructions to each other and the batter's teammates holler advice to keep running or stand pat.
The chaotic calls are in multiple languages, sometimes in the same sentence. Words of encouragement (never trash talk) in Hindi are punctuated by the command: "Run! Run!" No one criticizes the umpires in any language.
In their crisp white uniforms, the cricket players inevitably draw curious looks from people who venture past Bryn Mawr Park on weekend afternoons. But they're hardly an oddity. They've been gathering there since 1974.
Every Saturday and Sunday from early May to mid-October, you'll find a few of the 26 teams sponsored by the Minnesota Cricket Association at play.
Games are marathons, lasting six to seven hours. While spectators -- mostly family members or significant others -- come and go, the players settle in for the duration. As the Strykers Reds arrived for a game on a recent sunny Sunday, they brought bunches of bananas, a few dozen sub sandwiches, a cooler stocked with bottles of water and two more 36-packs of water that were stacked under the bench until they were needed to replenish the cooler. About halfway through the game, one of the spectators was recruited to make a convenience store run for a fresh load of ice.
By the end of the day, the once-bright uniforms are covered with dust from the batting area and grass stains from diving for balls. The box of subs is empty, the cooler is full of slush and the players are hoarse from hours of yelling.
Although the Cricket Association has launched a campaign to introduce the sport to a wider audience, most of the players are immigrants. The pitch serves as a melting pot of cultures, including those that have clashed.
"We have players from India and Pakistan on our team," Koti Vanga proudly noted of the Strykers Reds. "Only cricket can do that."