The baseball season can often feel like it comes too soon, on the heels of winter and snow. Yet, with winter stretching ever later in recent years, and with high school baseball seasons required to start in March to finish by the end of the school year, some schools in the upper Midwest have found it neigh on impossible to find fields ready and available to host baseball and softball games.
Enter the Mall of America Field, formerly the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Re-named for the nation’s largest monument to capitalism, the Metrodome still hosts baseball games in the Spring, except now they don’t involve the Twins, following the team’s move to nearby Target Field.
Instead, as reported by the Wausau Daily Herald, any teams can rent out the field for $750 per hour. Despite the steep rate, the demand for the facility is so fierce while snow still covers fields across the region that schools have been forced to schedule games at ridiculous times like 3 a.m.
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That was the case for Schofield (Wis.) D.C. Everest High, which “hosted” a game against Middletown (Minn.) High. While the game will officially count as a scrimmage, it was an important opportunity for both schools to get on the field and compete against another live, competitive squad on a diamond rather than inside a gym.
And no, this is not an April Fool's joke. The game really took place at 3 a.m.
“It was nice to see live pitching and hit off that," Everest outfielder and pitcher Zach Finnegan told the Daily Herald. "Also, it was the first time we saw flyballs this year. It was different. It was like a game."
That’s probably because it was a real game … and the fourth since 6:35 p.m. on the field that day alone. Incredibly, it wasn’t the last, either, with back-to-back doubleheaders featuring a pair of high school teams and two small colleges, all to be wrapped up by 3 p.m., 12 hours after Everest and Middletown took the field.
While the early start required plenty of changes to the team’s routine, it also gave a group of high schoolers the chance to compete on a legendary field and sit in the same dugouts once used by scores of MLB All-Stars. That experience in itself was lauded as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by Everest’s stars.
"We dropped our bags and started taking pictures," senior Vince Collelo said. "Even when we got to the parking lot, we were taking pictures. Our coaches were like, 'You need to get on the field and take pictures.'"
In time, the 1 a.m. wake-up call will probably fade into a distant memory for the Everest and Middletown players. Playing on Mall of America Field, cavernous and empty though it may have been, likely will not.
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