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Signs of hope from farm country - AAA

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Better Weather Cools Crop Rally As Corn And Oilseeds Sink
CHS Field
M.Grasso

June 16th 2021. My first trip to CHS Field. Actually my first trip of note anywhere in the past year. CHS by the way is very “farm” as it stands for Conagra and Harvest States, two agribusinesses that kicked in for naming rights to the Saint Paul Saints’ new stadium in the Lower Town neighborhood. I intend this to be a mix of travel guide and scouting report. I’ll try to be judgmental but fair in both respects.

The Venue

This is a beautiful ball park. It fits with its surroundings. And they have it set up for fun from the start….an enthusiastic band in Saint’s garb was jammin’ in the Farmer’s Market across the street from the entrance. Sight lines are great. Well done. Rating: Excellent.

Food and Drink

I make a point of asking ushers of my demographic where the best chow is. I was told Von Hanson’s. Behold a magnificent brat with fried onions and peppers. Plenty of other good things are available as well. Rating: Excellent. Beer options were too numerous to provide a fair sample size. Besides, I was driving.

A Superior brat
M.Grasso

National Anthem

I’m not a music critic beyond knowing what I like. The band across from the entrance for instance. The Anthem singer clearly had a set of pipes, and as such I feel had the potential to excel. But this was perhaps the slowest rendition I’ve ever heard. Barely moving and tonally all over the place. Rating: Tortuga Pitching. Fun on some level but hard to call it good.

The Fans

There was a party atmosphere, as befits a perfect evening and one of the first nights they were able to bump the capacity from 40% to 100%. This plus the total wipeout of the 2020 Minor League season certainly had people a bit silly. I felt the game was something of a side show. But for my first time in a ballpark in two years plus, I was OK with that. The ushers did direct me to “Bruce,” a serious 20 year season ticket holder who follows things close enough to have opinions on who was on their way up and who was not.

Bruce (and others) call ‘em

A couple of Twins were down convalescing. Brent Rooker did nothing useful. Kepler took some pathetic flails against off speed pitches. He did connect for one solid hit. Those who have opinions felt that a certain Charlie Barnes was the best pitching prospect. 2-1 this year with a 3.53 ERA. Chandler Shepard pitched well in relief. The Saint’s starting pitcher – I think it was Meisinger – got rocked early but steadied himself. When he was lifted in the 6th he hung his head briefly. Handed over the ball, crossed himself and walked off. 1-1 with an ERA over 7, but classy. Quality of play: Surprisingly good, especially infielders.

Mascots and Frivolity.

Hey, it’s the Saints. They have always had silly stuff going on between innings but as a AAA club they’ve reigned it in. They are also very practiced at it. Giant eyeball races in center field. The grounds crew dragging the bases dressed in pink gowns.

Putting the Drag in Dragging
M.Grasso

And of course, the Pig.

The actual pig did not do much. “Muddona” was trotted out a few times wearing a minimal costume. There is also a human dressed up in a mascot suit and he/she was, as you’d expect, cheerful and interactive. I always get my picture taken with these patient souls. The pink fuzz was tickly.

The snout bumped my hat!
M.Grasso

Of course having a pig mascot and serving brats always creates a discordant vibe. Here is “Monument Pork” where departed pigs (actual not human variety) from past seasons are immortalized. Next to tables where their less fortunate brethren are served up. Its always struck me as a bit odd, and the Saints seem to revel in it.

None of the patrons seem bothered....
M.Grasso

Rating: Frivolity dial set appropriately. The mascot is quite good. Just ignore the cannibal thing.

Spoiler...not vegan brat
M.Grasso

Overall

The most fun I’ve had at a ballpark in years. I recommend it. I’m not sure there is a lot of near term relief on the current Saints roster but you can have a bit of fun, and at a lower cost, while waiting for the fortunes of the Big Club to right themselves.