Outside Looking In

Stingers are back!

For those who love to watch a higher-level of baseball, but don't want to travel to the the Twin Cities and pay for those exorbitant prices for parking, concession and souvenirs, the Willmar Stingers won't disappoint.
I live two blocks away from "The Hive", the name the Northwoods League team has adopted for Baker Diamond at Bill Taunton Stadium where they play their home games. The stadium draws large crowds for the games that include entertainment between innings, similar to what minor league teams do.
The Northwoods League is a summer collegiate league in its 28th season. Willmar has players on the roster this summer that play collegiately for Division I schools like Alabama, Nebraska, Washington State, Miami of Ohio, Boise State and Baylor. There are also a scattering of small college players, including two from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall; Teddy Broxterman and John Bezdicek.
The league is comprised of two divisions with 12 teams in each division. The Stingers play in the Great Plains Division where teams are from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and even one team in Canada. The players must be in college and entering either their sophomore, junior or senior year.
Several former Northwoods League players have reached the major league level, including Twins catcher Mitch Garver, as well as stars such as Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Crawford, Pete Alonso, Mark Melancon and Matt Chapman.
The Stingers, entering their 12th season in the league, have seven former players that are now playing in the major leagues, including Kansas City Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier, New York Mets pitcher Jacob Barnes, and Los Angeles Angels catcher Anthony Bemboom.
Host families "adopt" the players for a summer, much like families do for exchange students during a school year.
One former Stingers player, Joe Sever, stayed with a host family right next door to me. He is the nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Sever. a third baseman for the Stingers, made it to the Class AAA level before giving up baseball in 2018.
The Stingers, owned by Ryan Voz and Mark Jerzak of St. Cloud, also have brought in celebrities over the year to greet fans and sign autographs. Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will throw out the first pitch on Opening Night on June 2. A couple of years ago, Dwyer Brown, who played John Kinsella (the father of Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner), in the movie Field of Dreams, was at the game to sign copies of his book and to throw out the first pitch.
Former Twins players Paul Molitor, Tony Oliva, LaTroy Hawkins and Al Newman are among the many celebrities who have appeared at "The Hive".
Kids love the Stingers' Mascot, Beary, who spends time wandering around the stadium during the game. The playful yellow furry mascot also participates in some of the between-innings fun.
There is also a wide selection of concession food with workers grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and brats to names a few items.
The Stingers hold a promotion for each home game throughout the season, including Youth Jersey Giveway, Cap Giveway, Teacher Appreciation Night and Veterans Appreciation Night. There are fireworks shows that follow Stingers' games on five different dates, including the season opener.
With the pandemic putting a kabosh on a lot of activities and events throughout the state over the past year, it's nice to see the Northwoods League able to hold a full season again.
Trust me, it well worth the trip to Willmar to see some well-played baseball by players aspiring to play professionally one day.
The Mascot will have free pocket schedules for the Stingers.

Contact Us

The Minneota Mascot
Address: 201 N. Jefferson
Minneota, MN 56264

Phone:(507) 872-6492