Town Ball Classic Returns to Target Field

–by Louie Opatz, MBA freelance writer

When Faribault Lakers outfielder Chris Reuvers entered the game against the Chanhassen Red Birds last June 27, he was on the biggest stage of his life.

Reuvers stepped into the batter’s box at Target Field in the opening game of the inaugural Town Ball Classic – an event the ESPN 1500 producer and co-host spearheaded – as the last player off the Lakers’ bench. 

Lakers manager Charlie Lechtenberg had exhausted the roster to give every Faribault player a chance to step out onto the Twins’ home field, and – finally – it was Reuvers’ turn.

Reuvers’ goal? Avoid embarrassment.

I got hit by a pitch, which was spectacular,” Reuvers said, “because the kid didn’t strike me out.”

Mission accomplished.

Faribault ultimately beat Chanhassen 9-3 to win the first-ever Town Ball Classic match-up – a game that ended with Reuvers catching the final out on the green grass of Target Field.

“I still have the ball,” Reuvers said. “It’s sitting up on my dresser.”

Players from six new teams will vie for their own memorabilia and memories on Saturday, July 23, as ESPN 1500 and the Twins Community Fund present the second annual Town Ball Classic.

Action begins at noon, when the Green Isle Irish face the Hanska Lakers in the Class C game; continues with a Class B clash between the Cold Spring Springers and Austin Greyhounds at 2:30 p.m.; and culminates with the Class A game between the defending state champion Minnetonka Millers and Stockmen’s Irish.

Tickets are $10 and grant access to all three games. All proceeds from the Town Ball Classic will benefit the Twins Community Fund, which is “dedicated to getting more kids into the game by providing resources and programs to communities throughout Twins Territory.”

The Saturday tripleheader will showcase the breadth and quality of town ball across the state of Minnesota while providing town-ball neophytes a chance to see just how good Minnesota amateur baseball is. 

“The Town Ball Classic is just another great example of how we can get amateur ball out in front of the faces of people in Minnesota to let them know that there is very good baseball that goes on in the out-state areas, too,” said Minnesota Baseball Association board member Mike Nagel. “… What a great honor for the teams that get chosen to play on the field. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Green Isle Irish are one of the six teams honored with the opportunity to play at Target Field Saturday, and co-manager Joe Kreger is eager for his team’s turn to take the biggest stage in the state.

“I think everybody is excited to play at Target Field,” Kreger said, noting that fans will be able to snag premium seats for a bargain price. “… I think it’ll be a pretty fun experience for the fans. Ten dollars, what the heck: you’re never ever going to be any closer.”

The Irish boasted a 13-2 record – one-and-a-half games behind defending state champion Plato in the Crow River Valley West – through July 15 and will look to continue their strong play in the exhibition against Hanska.

It may take the Irish a couple innings to adjust to playing at Target Field, however.

“I’m thinking people will be pretty wide-eyed at first,” Kreger said. “Hopefully they’ll settle down quickly.”

For his part, Reuvers recalls just how meaningful his time was on the field during the inaugural Town Ball Classic.

“It was surreal,” Reuvers said. “It’s hard to really put into words.”

Reuvers’ work to create and continue the Town Ball Classic ensures that thousands of players, fans and coaches from all across Minnesota will have their own awestruck moments on the Twins’ hallowed ground.

“We want to represent as many parts of the state as we possibly can,” Reuvers said. “I want every area of the state represented and want them to know that they’re all included.”

Personally, Reuvers is looking forward to the Class B battle between Austin and Cold Spring, two of the state’s most successful and storied amateur teams.

“I think the Class B game is going to be an exceptional match-up between not only two really good teams but two really good organizations, with Cold Spring and Austin, that really set the bar for town ball in the state,” he said. “Just being the baseball dork that I am, I can’t wait to watch that game.”

Reuvers hopes that town-ball newcomers will recognize what so many amateur fans have over the years: these guys are good.

“They come to a game, a good game, and they say, ‘Wow, this is fun,’” Reuvers said. “That’s what makes it fun: it gets in your blood and you can’t shake it loose.”

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BUY TICKETS ONLINE (tickets may also be purchased at the gate on gameday)

2015 TOWN BALL CLASSIC PHOTO GALLERIES: 1500 ESPN | SCOREMONSTER | SPX SPORTS 

1500 ESPN’s Saturday Morning SportsTalk will broadcast live from Target Field, 10 am to noon, leading up to the day’s first pitch.

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