Down on Farm: St. Paul Puts on a Show

This serves as the fourth post in my fourth season of a series called “Down on the Farm” that chronicles visits to various Minor and Independent League ballparks throughout the 2014 campaign. (All prior editions can be accessed here.)

Midway Stadium

The St. Paul Saints predate their big-time friends across America’s chief river by nearly a century. This is actually the fourth incarnation of the franchise, beginning briefly during the Benjamin Harrison administration, then returning a decade later through 1899, followed by a 1915-60 run, ending just before the Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins.

Owned by a group including Bill Murray and Mike Veeck, and situated “midway” between the Twin Cities, one finds the second version of Midway Stadium.

Midway Stadium 4

The original Midway Stadium was built in 1957 to compete with Metropolitan Stadium for an MLB team. However, the much larger “Met” became home to the Twins, and when the Saints left town, Midway became obsolete and was demolished in 1981.

The modern venue opened its doors concurrent with the now-defunct Metrodome. Both debuts followed the abandonment of the aforementioned Met, home of the Twins and Vikings for 20 years.

Midway Stadium 3

With a creative, humorous, yet light-hearted feel, it’s no wonder the Saints regularly finish near the top of the American Association in attendance. Fans come out strong every opening, especially local college students (there are nearly a half-dozen schools within a few miles), even when not in session. There’s really not a bad seat among nearly 6,500 in the house.

Midway Stadium 7

The Saints are truly all about quirkiness, like a diminutive nun who doubles as a masseuse, a pig brought out between frames, Seigo the real Japanese guy awkwardly singing karaoke, a “Sinners” banner hanging above the visitors’ dugout, crazy mascots, unique fan contests and more.

Midway Stadium 6

Midway Stadium is also big on “themes.” We attended on a Monday evening, which was “Face your Fears” night. You can peruse the 2014 promotional lineup here. Even the multiple, wooden party decks contain various themes. This is not a location where one finds lavish comfort either, and fans seem fine with that. Private “suites” are simply field-level benches with a chain fence for protection.

Midway Stadium 5

Situated between two BNSF Railway tracks, the P.A. guy roams among fans and frequently announces when a diesel locomotive goes by, to which the crowd repeats “train.” He and his cohorts add entertainment throughout.

Midway Stadium 2

I generally don’t write about ballpark food, but I was impressed at the stadium’s offerings, including dozens of local beers on tap, interesting sandwiches and other snacks, most at affordable prices. The selections reminded me of various State Fairs across the heartland, which makes sense since this facility sits about a mile from the Minnesota State Fair, which is the best-attended in America. There are also souvenir stands with large selections of local gear.

Midway Stadium 1

Unfortunately for its supporters, after just over three decades, Midway Stadium has reached its final season as the Saints will move into spiffy Lowertown Ballpark  in 2015. Despite what naysayers bemoan, the new place will surely have great amenities and, like any new ballpark, do wonders for the neighborhood. But it’ll surely be tough to ever match Midway Stadium’s character.



About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.

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