Just north of the Illinois-Wisconsin border is the town on Beloit, located along the Rock River. The Minnesota Twins' Class A minor league affiliate, the Beloit Snappers, play at Pohlman Field. The team is named for the large turtles found in the river. Beginning the 2013 baseball season, the Beloit Snappers are a Class A minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
There is nothing about Pohlman Field that would even hint at "must-see" or leave you with a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, but there is something very attractive about the sparseness that you find when you arrive at a Beloit Snappers game. I may not be able to adequately explain it, because the overall FANFARE score would suggest that this is a bad place to go for a game, but I left the stadium feeling happy, and there's something to be said for that.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
As I perused the menu at the Firehouse Grill, down the first base line, I began to discuss what I should try with a member of the Beloit Snappers staff. He recommended the pulled pork sandwich ($4.50) with cheese and some Sweet Baby Ray's sauce. He went on to point out that the "True Wisconsin Cheeseburger" is a new signature item this year, but that he wouldn't recommend it. It's a burger with a slice of Wisconsin cheddar, topped with fried cheese curds, and covered with nacho cheese sauce ($5.75). Sadly, I was intrigued by this description despite the recommendation. Plus, I just love cheese curds so much that I had to try it. I wore that caloric behemoth around my neck like a brick necklace for the rest of the night. Bad decision. You should definitely skip it.
The pulled pork, on the other hand, is definitely worth it. They pull the juicy threads of porcine from a large crock pot, showing that it was slow cooked for you. It tastes homemade, and was definitely a highlight.
I'm not sure why more ballparks don't offer a large whole pickle as part of their menu. It has a baseball meaning, and pairs well with most ballpark fare. They have them at Pohlman Field ($2), and I think I found a new favorite while watching baseball.
There's more good news as you look over the sausage selection, including bratwurst, Polish sausage, and Italian sausage ($3.25 each). They are all Klement Sausage products, the same brand as the featured encased meats in the Sausage Races at Miller Park . If you can't decide between burger and sausage, then order the Snappy Burger - a burger with a split bratwurst on top.
Beer is divided into Miller products, and "Other". The other would be Sam Adams and Leinenkugel selections. I like that they offer both small and large sizes (12-ounce and 20-ounce). I tried the Sam Adams Noble Pilsner, and was pleased with it as a good ballpark beer.
Your soda is brought to you by Pepsi ($2.50) products. Coffee and hot chocolate are available as well.
Overall, for such a small park, the food was better than you would expect, and the pulled pork is one of the better I've had at a baseball game. Keep in mind though that all concession stands accept cash only.
Cold metal bleachers surround the field from first base to third base. They are old and they are uncomfortable. If you move in behind home plate, there are several oddly sized blue plastic seats that are affixed atop the bleachers. They remind me of adult-sized booster seats, but they may be the most comfortable place to take in the game.
Down each line, you'll find party areas with picnic tables, which are fairly comfortable. They're obviously a little further away, but not a bad place to watch the game, and have a place to set down your food or beverage.
The scoreboard is old and needs to be replaced badly. Many of the lights are out. In fact, the lights in the section for total runs scored were completely out for each team during my visit. It may just be some simple math to tally the score yourself, but it is an annoyance that the ball club needs to remedy.
It was really quiet at the park on the night of my visit, but the serenity was a plus for me. A warm spring day, with some decent comfort food and a beer, just sitting back watching baseball - that's a very good thing. It's fun when you can hear every word of the umpires, coaches and players. That being said, if you're not a hardcore supporter of the team, or a huge baseball fan, I could see how this would be very stale and boring.
The neighborhood is absent of a shining star, but I did think the burgers at Hansons were pretty good. The bar/restaurant is less than a mile away, and could be walkable, but it's a bit of a hike. Outside of that, I didn't find much to note, but I would love to hear more recommendations from locals and regular fans of Snappers games.
It is always tough to give a bad rating to the fans. It's like making a derogatory remark about your friend's mother. I attended on a beautiful Wednesday night in early May. It was the kind of night that Midwesterners yearn for from January through April. However, at first pitch, there were 78 fans in the stands (I counted). That's a problem.
I moved around to get different perspectives on the game action, and while the fans seemed engaged, they were also really quiet, barely rising above golf clap volume even on run-producing plays for the home team.
Parking is free in the lot, and also along Skyline Drive (at least on one side of the street - so read the signs carefully). Free parking is always a good move, especially if you are having trouble drawing fans. Moving around the park is easy enough. There is only one bathroom for each gender, and they are a bit towards the small side.
Keeping the context of the crowd size in mind, everything about the experience was easy. It's just a few miles to I-90/I39, which will take back towards Chicago, or north to Madison, Wisconsin.
General admission tickets start at $5.50, and front row box seats go for $7.50. For that price differential, you would assume that you should go with the top notch seats. The only problem is that the box seats are just a row of seats along the backstop, completely isolated. Unless there is a large crowd, the ticket to go for is the general admission, and then sit where you like.
If you have a big appetite, then you may want to go for the Miller Lite party deck and their all-you-can-eat deal ($25).
Parking is free, and food is fairly priced, so overall, the experience comes in at a reasonable $15 or so per person for ticket, parking, food, and a drink.
One quirk that I like is the basketball hoop that sits above the door to the shed near the Snappers' bullpen. I wonder how often the guys play some basketball when there's some downtime.
While the Pohlman Field experience won't knock your socks off, I am sure, that if I lived down the street, that I would be there for almost every home game. Sitting in the bleachers with a beer, pulled pork sandwich, a pickle, and a scorebook could be a good way to reach nirvana. Don't go out of your way to make a trip, but if you just want the simplicity of baseball, this isn't a bad place to spend a few hours, no matter what the scoreboard says.
I did end up sitting in those blue 'bucket' seats behind the net much to my disappointment. I don't know that the bleachers would have been any better.
I did like: the variety of food options, it was a $2 Leinenkugel afternoon, there was a female PA - which is a nice change, and free parking.
There was one elderly lady fan with a bell and she rang it the ENTIRE game - not just for runs. She needs to be a hockey fan. I left the game with a slight headache.
At of the end of the 2012 season, the Snappers announced they will be affiliated with the Oakland Athletics.
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