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RedHawks open American Association season at new $63 million St. Paul stadium

FARGO - Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase will miss the Midway Stadium charm, but not the visiting clubhouse.

CHS Field in St. Paul was open to the public on Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)
CHS Field in St. Paul was open to the public on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Pioneer Press / John Autey

FARGO – Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks shortstop Zach Penprase will miss the Midway Stadium charm, but not the visiting clubhouse.

"It wasn't a place you wanted to hang out in," Penprase said of the cramped clubhouse space that didn't have air conditioning.

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The St. Paul Saints are moving into the new CHS Field, playing their first regular-season game in the $63 million, 7,200-seat stadium at 7:05 tonight against the RedHawks. It is the American Association baseball season opener for both teams.

"I saw the virtual tour and I kind of didn't want to do it because I wanted to walk through the gates and see what it's like," RedHawks starting pitcher Taylor Stanton said of the new St. Paul stadium. "I'm sure it's going to be beautiful. ... It's an honor to be the first team to play there against them in a (regular season) game."

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Penprase will miss the trains that drove by Midway Stadium beyond the left-field fence and the feeling that the fans were right on top of the playing field. The Saints had called Midway Stadium home since 1993.

"It has this kind of aura about it, where it's an old school, fun place to play," Penprase said. "The atmosphere was nothing like anywhere in baseball that I played. Midway Stadium was one of those places where it's hard to get rid of ... there's just nothing like that in baseball."

Penprase remembered one game in particular the RedHawks played at Midway. It was so hot in the clubhouse that the team ran cold water all game to deal with the temperature.

"It actually made the locker room that much cooler," Penprase said.

Stanton recalled another game at Midway in which the RedHawks had a large lead late in the game. The pitchers were sent into the clubhouse in the late innings so they could shower ahead of the position players.

"I'm definitely not going to miss that locker room," Stanton said with a laugh. "We were shoulder-to-shoulder in there ... it wasn't the most comfortable situation."

Sean Aronson, the Saints director of broadcasting and media relations, said the in-game production and promotions that St. Paul has become famous for while at Midway Stadium will transfer to the new ballpark.

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"There is not one thing that was at Midway that we are not bringing here," Aronson said.

Penprase is a fan of the pig mascots the Saints had through the years at Midway Stadium. That is another tradition that will be maintained at CHS Field, Aronson said.

"That's the one main thing that I enjoy is going there at the beginning of the year seeing the size of the pig as a baby and, by the end of the year, it's this huge hog," Penprase said.

Midway Stadium was also known for its tailgating in the lot right outside the ballpark. Aronson said a tailgating area with 500 spots has been secured a block away from CHS Field.

Bucky Burgau, a longtime coach for the RedHawks, said in the "old days" the tailgating lot outside Midway would be nearly filled when F-M arrived for batting practice. Burgau is also going miss people like Bob Klepperich, who was the longtime facilities manager at Midway.

"I don't know if you will have that same mystique there," Burgau said of St. Paul moving the CHS Field. "I think it's a good change, however, for St. Paul. The clubhouse (at Midway) had reached the point where it was really bad. It's better for the fan and the baseball player all-around."

The 22-man F-M roster for opening night, including 11 pitches, 11 positions players. There are also two players on the inactive list and one player on the disabled list.

Pitchers: Bryan Blough, Chase Boruff, Jeremy Gooding, Randy Henry, Tyler Herron, Ty Kelley, Austin Kirk, Brandon Mann, Mike Mason, Mike Noteware, Paul Raglione, Taylor Stanton (inactive list).

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Catchers: Michael Leach, Joe Staley, Charlie Valerio (disabled list).

Infielders: Chris Duffy, Zach Penprase, Brent Peterson, Frank Salerno, Ryan Soares.

Outfielders: Joe Dunigan, Stefan Gartrell, Ryan Mathews, Chad Mozingo, Drew Muren (inactive list).

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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