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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

John Burch Park - Cannon Falls Bears

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Jack Burch Park

100 North 7th St

Cannon Falls, MN 55009

Year Opened: 1938 Capacity: 675


From a View to a Hill in Cannon Falls

John Burch Field in the town of Cannon Falls, Minnesota is one of the most curious-looking ballparks. The grandstand is wedged into a hill and hovers ten feet above the playing field, while the left field borders against a river. The Cannon Falls Bears have been playing baseball on this site since 1938, but its current grandstand was constructed in 1984.

The Cannon River runs behind left field creating a short distance of 293 feet from home plate; a 20-foot high fence is set up to ensure that cheap home runs don’t find themselves in the river behind the wall. Beyond that, copious amounts of trees plaster the area, while the town’s water tower and streets are downtown.

The ballpark itself is named after a local legend who was at the center of baseball history in Cannon Falls for over half a century. John Burch began his town ball career in 1946 and retired after the 1961 season. In 1948, it was reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he knocked the cover off a baseball during a game. The humble Burch would later say that the ball must have been manufactured wrong.

When he retired he played softball, umpired games, and ran the concession stands. The town would honor him by renaming the baseball stadium in 2000 and creating a small museum featuring his old baseball uniforms and equipment. Even at an advanced age, he would ride his electric cart five blocks from the nursing home to attend games.

Town ball has been played in Cannon Falls since 1887 and the Bears would make the tournament for the first time in 1949, a few seasons later the club would win 42 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs). The highlight was winning the Class A tournament championship over the Belle Plaine Tigers in 1952, their only state championship to date.

Food & Beverage 3

There is one concession stand near the entrance of the ballpark that offers basic concession items at very affordable prices. A hot dog is two bucks, hamburgers are a dollar more, and peanuts are a buck and a half. You can wash it all down with a pop for two bucks. The stadium offers combo platters with its hot dogs and hamburgers that come with chips and a drink for $5 to $6.

Atmosphere 3

John Burch Field offers a typical townball experience. The fans in the stands are a majority of friends and fans, the play is high quality, and the ballpark becomes an area of socialization among the locals. The majority of the fans sit on the first base side that is shaded with trees and provides an area to spread out a blanket or two.

The field has a unique design that keeps all of the seating areas well above the playing field and provides a nice view of the lush forestry that is behind the outfield walls near downtown. The covered grandstand features bleacher-style seating, a small press box, and protective netting. A simple, but lovely sign spells out the ballpark above the grandstand.

Cannon Fall players, at least this year (2018), don light blue and white striped pullover tops, a look first made popular in the early 1980s but being rediscovered by today’s baseball clubs at all levels.

Neighborhood 4

Cannons Falls has a population of 4,083 and features a historic downtown. The Cannon Valley Trail is recognized as one of the ten most beautiful rail-to-trails projects. It runs along the Cannon River and is used for skiing during the winter months. The Cannon River Winery is within a short walk that features both full-bodied reds and dry whites.

A few places to eat include Nick’s Downtown Diner serving breakfast all day, specialty sandwiches, and homemade pies; Mill Street Tavern offering an urban atmosphere and casual dining, and Tilion Taproom is open from Wednesday to Sunday with ten beers on tap, including Lake Andrew unCommon–a California Common that is not found at many breweries.

Fans 3

The small gathering of fans takes up residence on the hill on the first base side of the stadium overlooking the field. The fans spread out blankets and sit back to enjoy the game. The grandstand is often near empty but provides for a view of the stadium. This appears to be common at The Mini Met in Jordan and Tiger Field in Belle Plaine where most fans opted for open seating areas away from the grandstand.

Access 3

Cannon Falls is about a 35 to 45-minute drive from the Twin Cities and Rochester. The entrance to the ballpark is on the first base side and top of the hill overlooking the baseball diamond. The grandstand is not full all the time since most fans covert a spot on the first base seating area underneath the trees. The facility has one concession stand (with a nice view of the playing field) and bathrooms. Parking is available next to the stadium or on the residential streets.

Return on Investment 3

Ticket prices range between $2-$3, concession prices are all under $3 for single items. Downtown Cannon Falls is also enjoyable to visit for a few hours and with trails, a winery, and a brewery in town makes for an ideal location to visit with friends, a loved one, or solo.

Extras 2

John Burch Field receives a point for having its grandstand hanging over the playing field and providing an interesting view of the diamond.

John Burch Field gets a second point for the limestone seating area that also rises well above the playing field down the first base line

Final Thoughts

John Burch Field is among the most curious ballparks in Minnesota and is worth a visit if you happen to be nearby in Miesville, Rochester, or Red Wing. The experience is quite different but highly enjoyable. A bonus is that downtown is worth a visit any time of the year.

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