NEW ULM - If you were at the New Ulm Kaiserhoff vs. Arlington A's River Valley League game Friday night at Johnson Park, you may well have seen or perhaps talked to a person who you have never seen here in New Ulm before.
Todd Mueller of the Twin Cities was here in New Ulm researching a book about amateur baseball parks here in Minnesota.
Johnson Park and New Ulm was one of his many stops in getting information about certain ballparks.
"I have gone out to 125 ballparks here in Minnesota and I have got that down to the 25 most unique," Mueller said. "And basically the stories of each of the parks is going to be about the ballpark and more specifically it will be a history of the park. There was something that came out on WCCO a while back where they featured certain parks. My book will be a lot more detail-oriented."
He said that the focus of his book - which is around a year away from being published by himself - is a personal project.
"I control everything from the artist doing the design and layout and I have to work with people on the distribution, publishing and printing," Mueller said. "I want to feature both the Kaiserhoff and the Brewers, as they play at Johnson Park."
Friday night, Mueller just reinforced what he had known about Johnson Park.
"There is a heck of a lot of history in that park," he said. "It is going to take me a while to plow through all of the available information that I have and got on Friday."
Mueller talked to Herb Schaper Friday night at the game and said that Schaper gave him a lot of information.
"I really liked the setting that Johnson Park has," Mueller said. "It is second to none. You have the Minnesota River valley in the background. You have the bluffs going up on the other side of the hill that are kind of smokey-looking. You cannot buy that - that is amazing."
"Johnson Park is in a great location - you have a beautiful city," added Mueller. "I came in there visiting New Ulm once before. We drove around and took pictures of different buildings. We went to the Schell's Brewery - took a tour there - and that brewery alone is just stunning. It is so gorgeous. New Ulm is a clean town with a lot of history."
One of the unique parks that Mueller talked to me about was Pearl Lake. That may be one of the most unique amateur baseball parks in Minnesota.
"There are no outfield fences there," he said. "The dimensions down the left field and right field line are pretty short. They are like 290 feet. They are not marked, because there are no fences there. Center field is over 400 feet because it is a right angle. The roads in the outfield are at an eight-foot high berm at the top of that. So not only do the outfielders have to worry about running into the road, they also have to negotiate a 30 percent grade up to the road. So when they back-pedal, if they do not plant their feet right they fall flat on their backs."
Mueller said that the ground rules at Pearl Lake are that if the ball hits the gravel on the shoulder of the road it is double.
"If the ball pings off of the asphalt it is a home run," Mueller said. "The foul poles are in live territory, so if the ball hits the mesh of the foul poles it is a home run, but if the ball hits the lower pole the ball is live and they have to chase the ball wherever it goes. It is just crazy. It is kind of like sandlot baseball, where you make your own rules where if you hit the ball off of your garage it is a double."
He added that there are some baseball fields up in northern Minnesota that are just unique because they are so remote.
"Midway is a team that plays in a rustic - and I mean beat-up - park," he said. "The Snerdbirds won the Class C title in 2010, but yet their field does not exist. There is another team called Redeye, which is about 15-20 miles away, that is more remote. They are in the northwest area of Minnesota."
"There are some very unique baseball parks in Minnesota," Mueller added.
Hoffmann on a roll
New Ulm native Jamie Hoffmann is on a roll for the Norfolk Tides, the AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
Hoffmann is hitting .284, which is second on the team to former Minnesota Twins player Lew Ford. He leads the team in runs scored with 32, doubles with 13, total bases with 95 and walks with 33. He has six home runs and has driven in 28 runs, which is second on the Tides. He has a slugging percentage of .436 and has been successful on seven of nine steal attempts.