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Official Review by Scott Montesano, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Rochester, Minnesota has, and will for the foreseeable future, be categorized as the home of the prestigious Mayo Clinic. The sprawling hospital campus is part of everything in the town. On a smaller scale, yet for baseball aficionados and Midwest sports fans also important, the town was the launching pad for something innovative: The Northwoods Baseball League, a league that turned summer college baseball from a collection of low budget operations, into big business for many communities 20 years later. This city has served as the league base since its founding in 1994 and the Rochester Honkers are one of the original members.
Nestled just a block from a bustling downtown, Mayo Field has the location of a modern downtown ballpark without the setting or ambiance. It’s a case of being so close to being an enviable location, but frustrating in its limitations. A beautiful downtown skyline is hidden behind home plate. Parking is limited and downtown's numerous shops, bars and restaurants are at least 10-15 minutes away by foot.
During the league’s first decade, Mayo Field, and the Honkers franchise, were the league’s crown jewel. It has since been surpassed, but a visit to the park is a combination of modern summer-college baseball and what the minor league environment was during those transition years of the 1990s as the focus at the ballpark was changing. It is a ballpark that isn’t particularly historic or noteworthy, but one that is more than functional.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Standard ballpark fare, but with an impressive wine selection, categorize Mayo Field
There is nothing special about the food. It is all the standard ballpark so no surprises. You'll leave satisfied if you come hungry.
Interesting at Mayo Field, the team has (for a stadium) an impressive wine list. More small parks are offering wine, but few offer as many options as the Honkers do.
The walking taco, while not unique to Mayo Field, seems like a popular option for regulars so follow the crowds. They must know something.
This is a throwback experience. There are both modern elements, but also a more traditional flavor to a game here.
There is a simple metal grandstand that nestles halfway up both baselines and cups around home. The dugouts end the seating area. A teal and black paint scheme covers the grandstand, reflecting the Honkers' team colors. Two rows of plastic bucket seats are followed by 20 rows of metal bleachers with backs. The last five rows are covered by a tin roof. A small fan deck rises above the thirrd base dugout, said to be the first one in the NWL, a league where it's almost a mandate to have one now.
A unique aspect is an active railway that runs just a few yards beyond the third base side and separates the stadium from a cemetery (Moonlight Graham is buried here). Trains do roll by blowing their horns which leads to a cheer from the crowd.
The sound system is good, sometimes a little too loud, but crisp and clear. The scoreboard in right center offers the basic linescore.
An excellent sound system and PA announcer who has been with the team for years, work in unison juggling through a number of promo reads. It's a throwback to a game in the 1990s, a refreshing change of pace.
Don't spend money on the box seats. Instead, get the bleachers and more times than not you'll have your pick of spots to sit. All seats are protected by netting.
If the ballpark was a block closer to downtown it would be perfect. So close, yet so far away you don't feel like you're downtown. What you have is more of a neighborhood park and on that merit it's still cool. The view beyond the outfield is of backyards, including one house that for years has had "Go Honkers" in ribbon lighting placed on their back wall.
Downtown Rochester is filled with numerous options including fine dining, casual dining, and fast food. Get there early and explore and you're sure to find a spot that makes it all worth it.
Downtown Rochester itself is a surprisingly fun place to visit. The Mayo Clinic is the main draw here, but when in downtown Rochester you feel every bit as if you're in a large city. Commerce and fun are easily found.
The Kahler Grand is the official hotel of the Honkers and is located downtown. An elegant, older hotel, it can be pricey as it's also popular among Mayo patients.
The team has a passionate base. Whether it's a packed house or there are only a few hundred in attendance, there is always a line to get in when the gates open as the fans want to be at the park for as long as possible, and that's fantastic to see. When the team is competitive and the park is full, it can be very loud. Up until a few years ago, a dedicated group of diehards always brought goose call whistles with them. Alas, those days over.
The Honkers usually finish a season with anywhere from 900-1,100 in average attendance. A big crowd during a big game can get loud. Otherwise, it's a crowd that is definitely paying attention even if they aren't rowdy.
Being home to Mayo Clinic, Rochester is easy to get to and by association so is the park.
Buses run throughout downtown and Mayo Field can be accessed.
Parking is extremely limited as is the case with many downtown ballparks.
One gate is located behind home plate, next to a single ticket booth. Expect a line when gates open, but it breaks up quickly.
The ballpark doesn't have a large concourse, but it seems to work, even on big nights. The stadium does lack bathroom space with only a couple stalls for men and women. This can cause issues at times.
A trip to Mayo Field is worth the time.
A Honkers game is inexpensive (less than $10) and can be coupled with a trip to Rochester as a whole. While it's frustrating that the stadium doesn't feel like it's in downtown, this is also a hidden jewel. A recreational ballpark that is right in the middle of an active downtown as opposed to being in the suburbs.
Downtown Rochester is very much worth the visit. Unfortunately, many people do come to the city for reasons that aren't as promising as baseball. That said, it's a fun place to visit and Mayo Field's location alone make it easily a part of the trip.
Being in one of the original Northwoods League ballparks is also part of the fun. This is a league that has really become an example of how to do summer collegiate leagues the right way.
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7 2nd St SW
Rochester, MN 55902
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