ARLINGTON (FOX 9) - It doesn’t get much more like summer than amateur baseball in Minnesota.
This week, Fox 9 kicks off its second annual Town Ball Tour, taking you around to some of the classic amateur ballparks in the state. It’s a celebration of both baseball and community in a way only Minnesota towns can do it.
During the day, players and coaches have their full-time jobs. They might be plumbers, landscapers, carpenters or accountants, you name it. But once it’s time to leave the office, it’s time to put on the baseball gear and head to the ballpark.
We start our Town Ball Tour with a stop in Arlington, at Arlington Baseball Park. It’s the home of the Arlington A’s of the River Valley League, and has been since 1969. The town of a little more than 2,200 is about an hour southwest of the Twin Cities metro, straight west of Belle Plaine and southwest of Norwood Young America.
Arlington has won five state championships, most recently in 1985. The A’s have also had five third place finishes and appeared in a total of 10 State Amateur Baseball Tournaments.
Arlington was most recently a state tournament host in 2009, along with Gaylord. Arlington Baseball Park is also the home of the Sibley East Wolverines.
Bob Thomes is the play-by-play voice of the Arlington A’s. He’s considered the “Godfather of A’s baseball.” He’s been with the team for 25 years, between being the ballpark voice and being on the baseball board.
“Years ago it was a community event to come down to a ballgame. So you have a matter of the farmers, the city people, on Sundays they had games. That was their time to get together, have a good time and watch a baseball game,” Thomes said.
Alex Reichenbach manages the Arlington A’s and is in his second season after spending five years with the Gaylord Islanders. Gaylord happens to be one of Arlington’s biggest rivals.
So what makes Arlington special? Of the 28 players on roster, 25 graduated from local high schools. It’s a special feeling to put on the baseball uniform and take the field on a Minnesota summer night.
“I love being out here with the guys. It’s also kind of cool to be a part of something where it’s almost like we’re out here playing a professional baseball game. We have an anthem, we have an umpire. We have full uniforms, so it’s just cool kind of how official it is,” Reichenbach said. “When you get a big crowd out here, especially when we play our rivals like Gaylord and Henderson and you get big crowds, people are going nuts. That’s what it’s all about.”
The park features a couple of rare sights in Minnesota amateur baseball: A press box above the stands behind home plate, and a radio tower behind the first base bleachers. The City of Arlington also features the only water tower in the state shaped like a baseball.
Arlington Baseball Park is also known for its “Kurtzy” burger, grilled specifically at the ballpark by Gary Kutzweg. He’s the president of the Arlington A’s baseball board.
“You’ve got to take a little time to eat this thing because it’s good and juicy. It’s big and it’s good. We have a local chef in town, Chef Craig, we get our burgers from him,” Thomes said. “He comes out and fries them up once in a while.”
It’s not a summer night at Arlington Baseball Park without a Kurtzy Burger and a cold Miller Lite.
The Arlington A’s took on the St. Clair Wood Ducks Wednesday night in a non-league game. Some of their RVL opponents include the Belle Plaine Tigers, Burnsville Bobcats, Chanhassen Red Birds, Chaska Cubs, Fairfax Cardinals, Jordan Brewers and Victoria Vics just to name a few.
The Arlington A’s also host the Miller High Life Invite June 14-16. The tournament will feature four Class B Teams, two Class A teams and two Wisconsin state champions.
Ironically, Reichenbach came to the A’s from their biggest rival, Gaylord. Arlington travels to Gaylord June 28 in the Highway 5 series, then hosts Gaylord on July 12.
“If I only won two games all year, as long as it was Gaylord, I think I’d be alright. It’s kind of like Minnesota/Wisconsin,” Reichenbach said.