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SCVBL: River Falls ready to welcome Saints

Mike Brookshaw settles under a fly ball in a SCVBL game last summer for the Prescott Pirates. Brookshaw will be an infielder in the all-star game against the St. Paul Saints on Saturday, May 13 in River Falls. File photo

History will be made on a couple of levels this Saturday, May 13, when the St. Paul Saints play their first-ever barnstorming game outside of Minnesota and become the first professional baseball team ever to play at First National Bank of River Falls Field.

The Saints and partner Killebrew Root Beer will visit River Falls for an exhibition game against the St. Croix Valley Baseball League All Stars, including six members of the River Falls Fighting Fish and one from the over-35 River Falls Groupers.

This will be the ninth consecutive year the Saints will stay close to home to play an exhibition road game, but the first time they will play in Wisconsin. The Saints began their barnstorming tradition in 2008 when they celebrated the 100th anniversary of Jack Ruhr Field in Miesville, Minn.

Brian Giebel, the Fighting Fish's all-time leader in home runs, RBIs, hits and runs scored, headlines the River Falls all-star selections and will be joined in the outfield by fellow former Wildcat Clint Kempf, who is second on the Fish's all-time list behind Giebel in RBI and runs scored.

First baseman Joel Schaffer, who set a single-season record of 10 home runs during the Fish's 2011 Wisconsin Baseball Association state championship season, will also suit up along with pitchers T.J. Wink, Matt Doornink and Andrew Kemper. Wink, who pitched for the St. Paul Saints in 2012, is the Fish's all-time ERA leader with a career mark of 1.47 and set a single-season record for wins in 2014 with eight.

Also representing River Falls in the game will be pitcher Dave Meyer of the over-35 River Falls Groupers.

The rest of the SCVBL All-Star roster will include players from the Hudson River Rats, New Richmond Millers, Osceola Braves, St. Croix Falls Bandits, Spring Valley Hawks, Bay City Bombers, Ellsworth Hubbers, Hager City Skeeters, Plum City Blues, Prescott Pirates, Elmwood Expos and Menomonie Eagles.

The Saints will be bringing the “Saints Experience,” which has made the independent minor league baseball team's games a Twin Cities favorite for the last 25 years. Two live pigs, plus their two-legged mascot “Mudonna,” will be on hand and game-day programs and t-shirts will be available for purchase.

Killebrew Root Beer, sponsor of the Saints barnstorming games each season, has donated a Harmon Killebrew autographed Rawlings baseball, one of the last remaining signed by the former Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer, as well as a Frank Viola autographed Rawlings baseball and a Rod Carew autographed Louisville Slugger baseball bat, as feature items for a silent auction.

Gates will open at 12:30 p.m. May 13 with the SCVBL All-Stars taking batting practice at 1 p.m. and the Saints at 1:45 p.m. The top three power hitters on each team will square off in the Vibrant Health Home Run Derby at 2:50 p.m. with the game beginning at 4 p.m.

In addition to sponsoring the home run derby, Vibrant Health will be giving $5 concession stand vouchers and drawstring bags full of snacks from Family Fresh to all fans that park at the Vibrant Health Family Clinic parking lot, located less than a half-mile north of the ballpark on Division Street, and “Walk to the Stadium.” Vibrant Health Clinics will also be handing out free “Homer Hankies” from 12:30 to 2:50 p.m. at the ballpark while supplies last.

Pro Cut Lawn Care will run a free shuttle service from the Meyer Middle School north parking lot to the ballpark and back from 2-8 p.m. There will be a short fireworks display following the game sponsored by the River Falls Utilities Department.

The game will serve as a fundraiser for First National Bank of River Falls Field, which is home to the Fighting Fish as well as the River Falls High School and River Falls American Legion teams. The ballpark was funded almost wholly by private citizens, local businesses and the baseball community.

The Saints, members of the American Association, open their 2017 season Thursday, May 18, at CHS Field in St. Paul against the Gary SouthShore Railcats.

The roster for the SCVBL all stars follows:

Infielders: Blake Berger, Luke Schultz, Mike Blizel, Billy Brookshaw, Tyler Regnier, Dave Measner, Bump Ulvenes, Jon Will, Scott Sayles, Joel Schaffer, Mike Brookshaw, JJ Paulson, Zach Watkins, Mitch Lewis.Outfielders: Mike Lytle, Dennis Schutz, Jason Hollar, Brian Giebel, Clint Kempf, Adam Curchill, Patrick Riewer.Pitchers: T.J. Wink, Matt Doornink, Brady Yanish, Tony Garner, Chad Fox, Brandon Walczak, Rob Heller, Eric Monson, Aaron Moen, Brian Sparstad, Paul Johnson, Dave Meyer, Andy Kemper.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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