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Recap: In St. Paul Saints’ Summer Shandy Snowball Classic, Blue triumphs over Yellow

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The Minnesota Twins spent January 24-26 celebrating TwinsFest, reminding baseball fans of what they had to look forward to come Opening Day. A week later and across the river, St. Paul cut to the chase and decided rather than whet fans’ appetites, they’d serve up the main course.

Or at least a junk food version of it. In the only state that would think it a good idea to play Winter Ball anywhere north of the Rio Grande, an alliance of the St. Paul Saints, Leinenkugel’s, and the St. Paul Winter Carnival came together to present the Summer Shandy Snowball Classic at Midway Stadium on February 1.

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In five innings of baseball, the Blue Team rode its superior fielding to victory over the Yellow Team, winning 2-1. Particular advantage came from Blue’s three second basemen, who covered their territory well and caught many an infield pop-up.

It might seem logical that in a baseball game played on a field covered with four inches of snow, the advantage would go to the batters, but that advantage was nullified by two factors: the game was played with a softball rather than a baseball, and each side featured a fielding arrangement of fifteen players.

Temperature at first pitch stood at a balmy 32 degrees, excellent practice for that Target Field-hosted World Series game we all hope is in the near future.

Not long after that first pitch, the Blue Team scored the go-ahead run.

After an inning of play, the PA announcer declared all batters would start with a 1-1 count, a ruling that was quickly ignored by every single hitter it would have affected.

In the top of the second, Blue’s lead-off batter shuffled to first base in an attempt to beat out a throw. In a close play, he was ruled out, but decided he didn’t care and stayed at first. Two sacrifice hits advanced him to third base, and in one of the most exciting plays of the game, he attempted to steal home—but was tagged out by the catcher at the last second.

The Third Inning featured other highlights, including Minnesota Twins minor leaguer Mark Hamburger stepping up to the snow mound for the Yellow Team and pitching one inning of shut-out ball with no strike-outs (although, to be fair, there were no strike outs all game). His inning included a run-down between second and third for the final out of the inning.

A missed pop-fly to start the fifth inning gave Blue a base runner, who came around to score and pad Blue’s lead to 2-0.

That insurance run would prove useful, as with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Yellow faced a close play at the plate in which its baserunner was ruled “safe-ish.” The next batter reached first on an infield single to put runners on the corners. But it would prove all for naught when the next batter was thrown out at first to end the game.

As a way for a baseball fan to spend an hour in the dead of winter, the Summer Shandy Snowball Classic sufficed.

Nevertheless, the Classic does show some room for improvement. Namely:

  • Use a baseball. No hits left the infield, and the half-plowed outfield lay invitingly all game for the opportunity to force an outfielder to wade through the snow in pursuit of a pop fly.

  • Switch to a neon green ball. The summer features a white ball played against a backdrop of green grass; winter ball should feature a green ball used against a backdrop of white snow.

  • Eliminate base stealing—or implement youth baseball rules, where the runner can’t leave the base until the pitch passes home plate. This might appear an odd request given the low score, but the best way to improve the offense is through switching to a baseball, not through stolen bases by the occasional batter who happens to stretch his infield batted ball into a single.

  • Highlight the players who know what they’re doing. No offense to the summer softball players who filled out the rosters, and are no doubt legends in their own rec leagues, but special jerseys or some other visual cue designating the current and former St. Paul Saints players would’ve been welcome.

With a few minor improvements, the Summer Shandy Snowball Classic could easily grow into a hallowed tradition in St. Paul. Here’s looking forward to next year!

Updated 02-02-2014 at 12:34 AM by Wookiee of the Year

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  1. tborg's Avatar
    As a player in this "game" (I believe that's me in the far left of the photo), I agree with all of your comments. The roster fillers were actually players from local over 35 amateur leagues. Near as I saw, the real players were Hamberger, Kevin Millar, and Kerry Lightenberg. The remainder of the "celebrities" were folks representing Leinenkugels and the radio station that sponsored the event. I think that's why they used a kitten ball (about twice the size of a regular softball and very loosely wound). The Leinie girls on our team were dismayed that it was pitched overhand. When initially recruited for the game, our team was told that it would indeed be real baseball, played with a yellow pitching machine ball. Not sure when they changed their minds on that decision, but it may have had something to do with the celebrities, or perhaps concern over someone getting hurt (we were prepared!). It would have been fun to play something closer to the real thing. On the plus side, players got free beer and brats before, during, and after the game... perhaps that's the main reason we played with the kitten ball.
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