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'Mowed out': St. Paul Park, Hastings Legion game canceled so field could be mowed

The St. Paul Park and Hastings Legion baseball game at Miesville's famous Jack Ruhr Stadium on Saturday, July 9, was canceled so the grounds crew could mow the field. Submitted photo

Minnesotans get used to sporting events being called off due to rain, lightning, snow or even a collapsed roof.

But having a baseball game stopped in order to cut the grass? Now that's a new one.

The St. Paul Park and Hastings Legion baseball game at Miesville's famous Jack Ruhr Stadium on Saturday, July 9, was canceled so the grounds crew could mow the field.

"We were tied 3-3 through three-and-a-half and they had to cut the grass," said St. Paul Park Legion team head coach Matt Doornink. "I've never seen, or even heard of, anything like it. It was absolutely ridiculous."

Doornink played baseball for Park High School and college ball for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He's in his fifth year as head coach of St. Paul Park Legion Post 98. His St. Paul Park 19-and-under team took on Hastings as part of a double-header, along with the Cottage Grove VFW 16-and-under team, which played Roseville in game No. 1.

Doornink said in the middle of the game, the grounds crew approached him and told him they needed to mow the field.

"That's basically it," Doornink said. "I don't really even have words to describe it. We just got mowed out."

"The Jack," located on Highway 61 between Hastings and Red Wing and home to the Miesville Mudhens, is widely regarded as one of the best ballparks in all of Minnesota. It is privately owned and operated by the Mudhens.

"It's kind of a treat to play on that field," Doornink said. "If it ever rains, they'll pull the tarps out and tell everyone to get off -- they're really picky about their field, and they should be because it's an awesome field. There must have been a miscommunication between their grounds crew and whoever does their scheduling."

Jim "Juice" Johnson, who played 16 years for the Mudhens and has been with the organization since 1972, is a current board member. He said he is responsible for scheduling the games at The Jack. He said he didn't have the VFW or the Legion games on his calendar.

"We had no knowledge that there was a Legion game being played on that field and we had no knowledge that there was a game prior to the Legion game," Johnson said. "We thought it was a scrimmage game which we assumed was the over 35 team (The Miesville Groupers).

According to Johnson, 61, the Miesville Mudhens had a game on Sunday, July 10, and the field had to be mowed on Saturday.

"The mowers were scheduled to mow, but they figured they'd just do it after the scrimmage," Johnson said. "The mowers thought the teams started a second scrimmage and told them they had to mow. He didn't know who the teams [were]. All he knows is he has to get the grass mowed on Saturday."

Johnson, and all Miesville Mudhens board members, are volunteers.

He said, when scheduled in advance, area teams are allowed use of the stadium each summer. He said to his knowledge nobody from any of the VFW or Legion teams paid to use The Jack on July 9.

"From what I know, we didn't receive any money," Johnson said. "Somebody did tell me that Cottage Grove paid to use the field, but that was news to me."

According to sources with the teams, Cottage Grove's Dave Salwasser scheduled the game for the Cottage Grove VFW team and the St. Paul Park Legion team at The Jack with Johnson, who is his good friend. Salwasser, who plays for the Miesville Groupers, declined comment.

"It was a miscommunication," Johnson said. "No one with the Mudhens is to fault with this thing. Maybe something was communicated with me back in the spring, but I had nothing on the field calendar. We didn't know there were two VFW teams and two Legion teams playing. It's still a puzzler for me. But, we don't want to throw anyone under the bus on this. People make mistakes in life.

"I'm sure (Salwasser) thought he told me and I'm sure he thought he emailed me and he probably did. I just don't remember. A lot of this could be me, because I forgot something. I don't remember. It was months ago and I'm old. I messed up. It is what it is."

Johnson said if he knew Legion teams were playing, the game wouldn't have been interrupted. Johnson added the grounds crew would have also prepared the field and the stadium, like chalking the lines and opening the concession stand and press box, if he knew it was a VFW and Legion game.

"We take care of our local kids pretty good," Johnson said. "We like it when the kids use the field. If I had known the Park Legion and Hastings Legion teams were playing we would have been more prepared. We take a lot of pride in our field and we take a lot of pride with our organization. We wouldn't screw something up like this on purpose. We like to get the kids out there. We wouldn't have messed this up if we knew. All you can do is apologize. I really wouldn't have interrupted a Legion game. We would have figured out how to mow the field later on."

Instead of waiting the hour or so it would take to have the mowing completed and resume play, the game was canceled and won't be made up. Doornink said he felt Hastings coach Paul Hartmann had "no intention on finishing the game." Options included waiting until the grounds crew was finished working, continue playing on another field next to Jack Ruhr Stadium or moving the game to Park High School or Hastings High School. Hartmann could not be reached for comment.

Steve Rooker, whose son plays for the St. Paul Park Legion team, said he's been involved with baseball a number of years, but had never heard of a game called because the grounds crew had to mow.

"We thought it was a joke," Rooker said. "It was comical. You kind of were looking around for the camera."

Rooker said some parents were upset.

"It's a beautiful field," he said. "We had looked forward to coming here. It was a good game. It wasn't full, but we had a lot of parents in the stands who were enjoying the game. You just kind of have to shake your head."

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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