The Bethel baseball team opened its season playing on the Vikings field.
By Josh Towner
At 3:30 a.m. Feb. 27, junior Michael Bohlke rolls out of bed and goes to the SRC where he meets the rest of the baseball team. Some of the guys are playing catch, some are shooting hoops and some are standing around in a daze. All of them look exhausted. At 4:15 a.m. the team climbs into the bus and hits the road. No one complains about the early start. The team wouldn’t trade the opportunity to play at US Bank Stadium for anything.
“Being there where the Super Bowl was held, being on the same surface as those incredible athletes, it’s a cool experience,” Bohlke said. “You take whatever you can to play in there. It’s US Bank.”
Senior catcher Austin Ledin has the best view of the field from his spot behind home plate. “It’s a lot different [than other fields]. You see everything in front of you and it just looks so big,” Ledin said. “Just playing in that place and with what happened there with the Super Bowl, it’s a really unique experience.”
The Royals opened their season with six games at US Bank Stadium. They played a double header against Wartburg College at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Feb. 27, a double header against Northland College at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Mar. 6 and a double header against Buena Vista at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Mar. 8. The team went 5-1 at the Vikings stadium, dropping their first game against Wartburg and winning out the rest.
Home to the Minnesota Vikings during the NFL season, US Bank Stadium hosts about 70 college baseball games across 15 days in February and March. Teams from all over the country come to play. Any college team that wants to is able to put in a request, so teams like UCLA, the University of Washington and the University of Arizona were in town to play the University of Minnesota. Teams request a number of dates they’d like to play, and they are scheduled at various times around the clock. After teams are given dates, they are assigned a time slot starting as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. Each time slot is five hours, which means in most cases teams play two games against their opponent.
“We requested three dates and we got three dates. Some of the times are a bit crazy but they usually try to give us at least one reasonable time slot,” coach Brian Raabe said.
A challenge of playing at US Bank Stadium is the lack of a scoreboard. The jumbotrons are blank, save for a few ads from sponsors. Next to the jumbotrons are smaller panels with a clock that counts down from five hours, letting the team know how much time they have reserved on the field. Teams and umpires have to keep track of scoring, strike counts, outs and innings on their own. This led to some confusion in the Royals’ dugout during a game against Buena Vista in which the Royals scored 10 runs in one inning.