From the sidelines…Carson Park among best venues for baseball
The evergreen trees provided the backdrop behind right field, wrapping around the first base side to deflect potential foul balls.
The couple dozen fans were gathered in the grandstand bleachers, since the box seats behind the plate were still wet from that morning’s rain.
There were more than a few fans wrapped up in blankets, and the wind was still blowing cool April air. Nobody would say it was a perfect day for a baseball game, but I won’t hesitate to say it was a perfect setting.
When the club baseball team took on UW-Madison this weekend at Carson Park, I was reminded why I love the sport. Baseball has so many parks like Carson Park – little grandstands nestled among the trees in small- to medium-sized cities across the country. The pace of the game allows for a chance to sit back and enjoy the settings.
I don’t think I’ll ever see a more perfect setting for football than the tree-lined bowl in Collegeville, Minn., but for baseball, there’s a pretty good place on a hill between the arms of Half Moon Lake here in Eau Claire.
I’m not trying to say Carson Park is the best place out there to see a baseball game, but for a city like Eau Claire, it’s pretty good. I’ve seen baseball grandstands in cities of a similar size that don’t match up to Carson Park.
Midway Stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints, is considered a very good place to see a baseball game, and I agree the atmosphere at Midway is second to none.
If Eau Claire had a minor league team like it did when Hank Aaron was a teenager, Carson Park could become the place to be on a summer evening.
But there is no minor league team, so we have to make due with what we have. It’s a shame the baseball team doesn’t have varsity status on campus, and I don’t foresee any way of that changing for a while.
The budget situation makes a change difficult without dropping another varsity team, which I don’t think will happen any time soon.
But it may be just as well. If Eau Claire’s baseball team played in the WIAC, it wouldn’t get a chance to develop a rivalry with the Badgers, nor would it have a chance to host Madison in a three-game series.
What Eau Claire athletic team wouldn’t love the chance to play Madison, even if the players knew they’d probably get throttled? The baseball team not only gets to play the Badgers, but gets to compete with them for a conference title.
While the 30 or so fans Sunday didn’t come close to a typical Zorn Arena crowd, there was still a tense atmosphere in the first game of the doubleheader. After Eau Claire won Saturday’s game, some of the Madison players were chirping at the Blugolds, implying that Eau Claire wouldn’t get another win in this series.
Through five shutout innings Sunday, it was clear the first mistake would cost somebody the game. In the sixth, when Madison’s shortstop let a ground ball get underneath his bare hand, letting Eau Claire’s Scott Beyer score from second, several Madison players crouched on the field, looking down. Looking defeated. It was only a club sport, but the game still meant everything to them.
It would have been nice if that play had happened in front of a larger crowd, but you take what you can get.
Carson Park will never match up to the sea of red at Clemens Stadium for a St. John’s game, but it’s pretty darn good.
If you have a few free hours when the weather warms up, check out the club team, or if you’re around this summer, watch an Eau Claire Cavaliers game. It’s a great place for a ball game.