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In the 1960s and ’70s, St. Paul struggled to find suitable draws for the original Midway Stadium. “The place became a political football,” Klepperich said. “Anybody who ran for office said, we’re going to start doing something to get people into Midway Stadium. So we had a slow-pitch softball league that bombed, we had rodeos, we had motorcycle races, we had concerts. But the vast majority of the events attracted less than 200 people.”
Mike Veeck’s Saints arrived at the new Midway in 1993, ushering in a new and slightly crazier era at the ballpark for which Klepperich had a front-row seat. He was told to expect about 2,500 at Saints’ games. Instead, 5,000 showed up every night.
“I didn’t have enough trash cans, I didn’t have enough dumpsters, I didn’t have enough help,” he said. “We didn’t have enough of anything … It was just unbelievable how it went. And I was still teaching at that time.”
What kept Klepperich going was baseball, whether it was the Saints or American Legion ball or the Minnesota Baseball Association’s Class A league, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame this year. “Bob is the person who provided the care needed for all players to have their ‘field of dreams’ become a reality,” his citation read.
“It would be tough to be in this business as long as he has without having a passion for the sport,” said Saints general manager Derek Sharrer.
And something else stood out. “I don’t think he’s ever had to post a job listing,” Sharrer said. “There’s always a funnel of people waiting to come work at this ballpark for Bob.”
Said Gage Miller, a recent college graduate from West St. Paul who has worked for Klepperich for seven years: “I don’t really see it as a job. He’s more than a boss. He’s more like a mentor.”
Klepperich isn’t sure what he will do next. He might stay with the city for a while in another parks job, or he might retire and spend his time spoiling his grandchildren and tending to his garden in Mendota Heights.
One thing he does plan to do, he said, is travel to other cities and see their ballparks.
“I’ve had a really good run,” he said. “I taught so I could afford to work at the ballpark, because the ballpark at the time wasn’t all that lucrative. But it was something I really, really wanted to do.”
Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035