MANKATO — This cold, wet and windy weather, it seems, has many people thinking about summer, and watching baseball at the stadium is one of those hot times.
On Thursday, around 75 Mankato MoonDogs fans gathered with team staff at the Mankato Brewery, drank another beer, reminisced about summers past and looked forward to another Northwoods League season at ISG Field. The MoonDogs have unveiled SMASH IPA, a baseball-themed beer, developed by Mankato Brewery, which will be featured at MoonDogs home games this summer.
“It’s good to see people I haven’t seen since last summer,” MoonDogs manager Matt Wollenzin said. “It’s good to talk about baseball. It’s become a big part of the community.”
The MoonDogs open the season May 30 at home against Duluth, the first of 36 home games, and general manager Tyler Kuch spoke to the crowd about how it will be more of a normal season at the stadium.
In 2020, there were COVID restrictions that limited the atmosphere of the game, and last summer the season ran late, reducing some of the atmosphere in the stadium, even though the fans came back strong.
This year the entertainment lineup is more robust, bringing back some of the game day activities that have been gone for two years. There will be live music on Fridays and Saturdays, and there will be more emphasis on the berm bar, which opened midway through last season.
Kuch said one of the highlights will be the return of popular dueling pianos, as well as Tyler’s balancing act.
“It’s good that there’s no construction this summer,” Kuch said. “I think we’re finally going to get back to a normal year.”
Bert Langworthy and his family have been a foster family for eight years and will welcome their 20th player.
It started as a fun way to take her kids, now 14 and 16, to the ballpark for a fun family night out, sitting at a table overlooking the home team’s dugout.
“We always looked forward to it,” he said. “Kids could interact with the players, which was pretty cool.”
Langworthy said he still had contact with some of the former MoonDogs, some of whom went on to play professionally.
“It’s just fun to be a part of it,” Langworthy said.
Wollenzin has been with the MoonDogs for eight years, the last three as field manager. He’s also an assistant coach at Bethany Lutheran, but there’s something about the Northwoods League that he really enjoys, along with the possibility of warmer weather.
He’s excited about the return of many players this summer, as well as the possibility of new players having big springs in their college programs.
“The talent level of these players is so good,” Wollenzin said. “It’s fun to be surrounded by players who are so motivated and determined to improve.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourier.