Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A tale from Buckman, not of Billygoats but of a ballpark August 24, 2022

Outside Bell Field in Faribault, two oversized baseballs flank the ballpark entry. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

AH, SUMMER IN MINNESOTA. It is, unequivocally, a season packed with outdoor activities. Like baseball. I’m not a fan. But many are.

Beautiful and historic Bell Field in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A banner welcomes baseball fans. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A section of the stands at Bell Field. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

My community of Faribault, along with neighboring Dundas and Miesville, is currently hosting the Minnesota Baseball Association State Amateur Tournament in Classes B and C. That means lots of teams and fans are in town on the weekend to watch baseball at Faribault’s Bell Field.

Brackets posted at Bell Field. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

My husband, Randy, was among the spectators Saturday evening when his hometown team, the Buckman Billygoats, faced the Cannon Falls Bears. In the end, the Billygoats defeated the Bears 7-1. They will be back at Bell Field at 4:30 p.m. Saturday to play the Luverne Redbirds.

Downtown Buckman, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2020)

Even though 48 years have passed since Randy left the family farm southeast of Buckman, he remains forever rooted to this small town in Morrison County in central Minnesota. He is connected to the baseball field there, just south of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Not because he played ball. No, not that. There’s a story, though…

The playing field at Bell Field. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

In the summer of 1972, Randy joined a team of teenagers in painting a new outfield fence. When I write fence, I mean 4 x 8-foot plywood panels pieced together. The six teens went through lots of barn red paint, purchased in 5-gallon buckets.

Businesses advertise at Bell Field. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Local businesses could pay to advertise. Randy and his co-workers, employed through a summer community action program for low income families, stenciled, then painted the business names onto the fence panels. Cindy and Marge traced the stencils, then they all (including Randy’s older sister Vivian) brushed the letters in with white paint.

Rules posted in a Bell Field dug-out. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

But as Randy tells the story, the owner of the local grocery store deviated from the plan and decided to craft his own bold advertisement. He removed the two centerfield panels, painted them green and stenciled his business name thereon. And, remembers Randy, those fence sections stuck out like… Exactly as intended.

Bell Field has its own version of Bottle Cap Stadium in its BEER CAVE. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Randy holds other memories from that summer of working at the ballpark in Buckman. He remembers a homemade sign labeling the field as Bottle Cap Stadium. Somebody (he has his suspicions) picked up beer and bottle caps from the grounds, formed the identifying words from the caps and then nailed them onto plywood.

Bell Field is home to The Lakers, who just missed making this year’s tournament. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

He also recalls a sign tagging the ball field as “The Home of the Buckman Saints.” Whether the ball team was ever called the Saints is uncertain. But it makes sense given St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School just to the north.

On rainy days when the team of teens couldn’t work at the ballpark, they painted classrooms. Randy recalls the day he and the rest prepared to paint Mrs. Weber’s classroom. Rose Weber, mother of Minnesota author and forensic psychologist Frank Weber, was Randy’s fifth grade teacher and is likely related to current Billygoats player Aaron Weber. She chose pink and blue for her classroom. “Who picked these colors?” Reuben at the hardware store asked. Mrs. Weber was later called in to assess a section of newly-painted wall in her chosen color combo.

“She looked at it, didn’t like it and picked green and yellow, John Deere green and yellow,” Randy said. I can only imagine how those farm kids viewed the tractor colors chosen for the fifth grade classroom.

A baseball lodged in overhead netting at Bell Field. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Circling back to the beginning…, if not for Randy’s attendance at the Buckman Billygoats’ baseball game last Saturday evening in Faribault, I never would have heard these stories from the Summer of 1972. Nor would I have learned this about my husband of 40 years: “You wonder why I don’t like to paint,” he said. “I was sick of painting that summer.”

Point taken.

More stories will be written at the state tournaments. Here’s hoping the Buckman Billygoats win on Saturday. If anyone knows where Randy can get a Billygoats t-shirt, please comment. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

But, my sister-in-law Vivian noted, “We sure had a lot of fun!” Some Buckman ballpark-related stories shall remain unwritten…

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

8 Responses to “A tale from Buckman, not of Billygoats but of a ballpark”

  1. Ahhh the memories . . . of painting and baseball. I love the Team names! We are in baseball central here with the Spring Training Ball Parks for the Jays, the Phillies, the Yankees, etc. Then the Minor League takes over and heading to a game on Saturday evening and have my fingers crossed the weather holds. Play ball and hide the paint and brushes from Randy (hehe). Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  2. “Bottle cap stadium” Love it! ❤

  3. Valerie Says:

    I always enjoy going down memory lane from some random event or thought.
    Fun story.

  4. Neil Says:

    I remember the green and yellow 5th grade classroom. Mrs. Weber had moved on to other pursuits by the time I got that far into my education, but we all enjoyed her color choices long after her departure.

    For all these years, I thought they were the colors chosen by Randy and his conspiratorial co-painter! I was led to believe that he and another teen were told to paint the room. When the not-so-attentive supervisor showed up later, the job had been finished! Despite how it sounds, the colors and pattern were tastefully done. I wonder if that room was ever repainted prior to the school being closed. Probably not.

    Given that I spent 6 years there, it’s interesting that I can remember that room pretty clearly, yet I can’t remember the color of any other classroom in the building! I’m thinking that the 6th grade room was blue, but am not certain. Perhaps the left over blue paint was used for that room…

    • Neil, I’m laughing at your appreciation of the John Deere green and yellow classroom. That you still remember those colors is impressive. You can thank your brother and team for painting that room. And thank Mrs. Weber for choosing those colors, on the second go-around.


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