Memorial Day comes early and Labor Day comes late. That makes this the best of northern summers: a long one, 16 weekends.
There was a time when baseball was part of most everyone’s summer in Minnesota, and those 28 seasons [1982-2009] in the Metrodome helped to change that. You almost wanted it to be raining rather than to be revolving into the Dome on one of our precious blue-sky afternoons of June, July or August.
That now has changed, since the more blue the sky or nicer the evening, all the better to be watching big-league baseball in Target Field. And if you’re still upset that the Pohlads didn’t sign Max Scherzer, there’s now a gem of an alternative with the independent Saints’ new ballpark in Lowertown of the Saintly City.
That is where we start our Minnesota summer baseball sampler, with a five-day Memorial Day weekend.
May 21-25: Thursday, Saints vs. Fargo-Moorhead at CHS Field, 7:05 p.m. Friday, a little love for Class A amateurs, Highland Park vs. Minnetonka Millers at 7 p.m. at Veterans Field in Minnetonka. Saturday, Big Ten tournament gets down to nubbins at Target Field with games starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, back to CHS Field for Saints vs. Fargo-Moorhead at 5:05 p.m. Memorial Day, Twins back home to play Boston at 1:10 p.m.
May 29-31: Friday, Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion return to make Target Field look small. Saturday, Lake Henry and St. Martin are the hosts for the Stearns County Classic, an eight-team tournament pitting teams from the hamlets of Stearns County League vs. visitors such as the Sobieski Skis, defending Class C champions. Sunday, give a shout-out to Terry Fredrickson, the longtime Elko Express manager, as the Dundas Dukes come to Elko for a 2 p.m. game.
June 5-7: Friday, Ryan Braun in town with Brewers. Boo! Saturday, Green Line doubleheader: Twins-Brewers at 1:10 p.m., Saints-Sioux Falls at 7:05 p.m. Sunday, head to Dundas for the finals of the six-team Dundas Invitational, a town-ball tournament that has taken place since 1979.
June 12-14: Friday, Jordan at Gaylord, amateur ball, 7:30 p.m. They might have the big grill out for smoked chops; if so, I’ll meet you there. Saturday, tripleheader of state prep title games at Target Field. Sunday, OK, this requires sneaking over the border, but it’s a Northwoods collegiate league game — Alexandria at Eau Claire’s Carson Park, 5 p.m. Take a family photo with the Henry Aaron plaque (he played there).
June 19-21: Friday, Twins-Cubs, Eddie Escobar vs. Kris Bryant. Saturday, another Green Line twinbill, Twins-Cubs at 1:10 p.m., Saints-Gary Railcats at 7:05 p.m. Sunday, Twins-Cubs (hey, it’s the Cubs, and they are winning).
June 26-28: Road trip! To Milwaukee with Twins? No way. Friday and Saturday, in Austin, for the Spamtown Challenge with 16 town-ball teams from around the country. There’s a concert at Marcuson Park on Saturday night. Sunday, swing by Green Isle and Hamburg, two wonderful ballparks, for the final games in their 16-team weekend tournament.
July 3-5: If you were going to road trip it with the Twins, this would be the weekend: Thursday-Sunday at Kansas City. But then you would miss the annual Miesville Mudhens-Red Wing Aces Fourth of July duel at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fabulous Red Wing ballpark. And you would miss the Saints vs. Fargo that night. You make the call: Kansas City barbecue or fireworks over St. Paul.
July 10-12: Great ball weekend … Miggy Cabrera in town with the Tigers, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and 96 American Legion teams from around the country playing at 16 sites in the Gopher Classic. Try this one on Friday: Service of Anchorage, Alaska, plays Tri-City Red (Mounds View) at 3:30 p.m. at Bethel.
July 17-19: Northwoods League weekend. Friday, Green Bay at St. Cloud, 7:05 p.m.; Saturday, Rochester at Alexandria (with Al Newman managing the home team), 5:05 p.m.; Sunday, Mankato at Willmar, 6:05 p.m. On the drive to Willmar from Alex, you might find a town-team playoff game in Sunburg, and for sure, you’ll find a Norwegian brunch at Kaffestua, the local cafe.
July 24-26: Twins home with Yankees (A-Rod — boo!) and Saints home with Lincoln Saltdogs … mix and match.
July 31-Aug. 2: The American Legion state tournament — 16 teams, double-elimination — will be held all weekend at Chanhassen’s top-flight ballpark. Did you know Minnesota has more American Legion teams (312) than any other state?
Aug. 7-9: The Class A state tournament starts over the weekend at Red Haddox Field in Bloomington. Not much attention paid, but good baseball. The Saints are home all weekend.
Aug. 14-16: Corey Kluber might be over 200 strikeouts by the time Cleveland gets to Target Field for the weekend. The Class A tournament winds up at Red Haddox. The St. Paul Capitals are the defending champs.
Aug. 21-23: Americana on parade … the Class B and C state tournaments get started in Cold Spring and Watkins.
Aug. 28-30: Twins vs. Astros in an ALCS preview all weekend. The state town-ball tournaments continue in Cold Spring and Watkins. Food, drink, camaraderie. You might even run into Joe Driscoll (there’s only one of him) and get an autograph.
Sept. 4-7: You’re back in Cold Spring and Watkins for the weekend, watching Class B and Class C play down to a couple of teams. The champs are decided on Labor Day, but you’ll be back in St. Paul, at CHS Field where the summer of baseball started, for the Saints’ regular-season finale vs. New Jersey at 11:05 a.m.
And then you head to the State Fair to eat, drink and talk loud before you hit the last night’s grandstand show — Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Sturgill Simpson — to wind up your long and perfect summer.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.