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Dick Putz Field / St. Cloud River Bats

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Dick Putz Field was originally built as the home of the St. Cloud Rox of the original Northern League, with the team playing in the unfinished facility in 1971. When that circuit folded, the ballpark served the needs of St. Cloud's many amateur, Legion, high-school and college teams. For them, a 2,000-seat ballpark was more than enough.

FAST FACTS

Year Built: 1971
Capacity: 2,200
Dimensions: 323L, 380C, 323R
Website: riverbats.com
Phone: 320/240-9798
League: Northwoods League
Parking: Ample and free
Address/Directions: 5001 8th St. N., St. Cloud. Highway 15 runs north/south through western St. Cloud. No matter where you're coming from, you'll want to make your way to Highway 15 (there's even a Highway 15 exit off of I-94). When you reach 8th Street, head west; Dick Putz Field will be about a mile away on the north (right) side of the road.

In 2007 the St. Cloud River Bats moved to Joe Faber Field in the same St. Cloud athletic complex. This article reflects a 2003 visit to the ballpark.

Though the small seating capacity of Dick Putz Field, as well as the reluctance of city officials to offer a rent-free lease to the league, scared away the Northern League in 1993, the limitations didn't faze the owners of the St. Cloud River Bats, playing in the Northwoods League, a college-development league centered in the Upper Midwest. St. Cloud is a baseball-crazy town, and the locals took to the River Bats with a passion, as the team averaged 1,716 fans per game in 1998 -- an attendance figure that many affiliated minor-league teams would love to have. The one great failure of the Northern League has been to ignore St. Cloud.

Structurally, Dick Putz Field (named for a longtime St. Cloud area baseball booster) is nothing special, and the last few years the city has contemplated plans for changing it. The concrete grandstand features metal bleachers (no backs) and a small press box. There are metal bleachers down each line, and the outfield fence is covered with ivy.

But you're not at a River Bats game to admire the ballpark -- you're there to enjoy the ambiance of baseball on a warm summer night. And on that count Dick Putz Field exceeds.

Concession Highlights
There are now two concessions stand at the park. one concession stand is tucked underneath the main grandstand, while a freestanding concession area -- which features beer -- is located on the first-base side. On the menu are hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, candy, pop and beer.

Parking
Dick Putz Field shares a huge, free parking lot with an adjoining hockey arena. That's not to say that the parking lot doesn't fill up when the River Bats sell out a game -- an increasingly common occurance these days.

Before/After the Game
I grew up near St. Cloud, and in high school St. Cloud was the big city. Of course, that meant that St. Cloud had movie theaters and restaurants open past 8 p.m. Bright lights, big city.

Still, there are a few nightspots in St. Cloud, mostly due to the presence of St. Cloud State University near downtown St. Cloud. The Red Carpet Lounge attracts some very good bands from the Twin Cities, and several bars in the general vicinity attract their share of college students as well.

If drinking with college students doesn't appeal to you, consider a visit to the Stearns History Museum (235 33rd Av. S.; 320/253-8424). There are some excellent exhibits on immigration, natural history, granite, and automobile legend Samuel Pandolfo. There's a small admission charge, but it's well worth it.

Where to Stay
There are a slew of chain hotels -- Fairfield Inn, Super 8, Comfort Inn -- near the ballpark at the corner of Division and Hwy. 15. Your best choice is the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites (75 S. 37th Av.; 320/253-9000), which is set up well for families with four swimming pools (including two large ones), plenty of suites, a large gym area for teenagers, and a substantial play area for toddlers.