Photos By Geneva Nodland
On a delightful summer evening, when the air is filled with the joys of family, the aroma of delectable food trucks, and the excitement of free baseball, what more could one desire?
We ponder the same question, and that’s precisely why you should make your way to Washington Ballpark in Detroit Lakes to witness the sensational performance of the Detroit Lakes Ligers—the area’s amateur baseball team—as they embark on their second year.
What is Amateur Baseball?
Amateur baseball in Minnesota has a rich history and a rich present with over 200 amateur teams currently competing across the state. In amateur baseball, players can join teams starting at the age of 14 and can play for as long as they want to. In fact, the youngest player on the Ligers is 17 and the oldest is over 40!
After a 3-10 season in the Red River Amateur Baseball League, the Ligers are eager to build upon their last season. Nevertheless, this isn’t the city’s first encounter with amateur baseball. Detroit Lakes has a rich history of fielding teams to compete in Minnesota’s renowned amateur baseball circles, with the most recent being the Detroit Lakes Angels in 2018. According to manager/player Brandon Johnson, the community yearned for the resurgence of amateur baseball.
“We really wanted to be able to bring something for the community,” Johnson said. “We also wanted to build off of the things that prevented amateur baseball from working in DL in the past.”
Johnson, a former Angels player himself, has a passion for the game that has stood the test of time.
“I went to college to play baseball in Crookston. I played there my freshman year and then went to M State in Fergus Falls,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do and got too involved in the partying. I left and went without baseball for a really long time.”
If you love a refreshing summer lemonade, Lovely Lemon, a food truck alley regular, is just the place for you to get your fix. Their drinks are generous in size, are made with real lemons, and come with a variety of flavor-enhancing options. And, oh yeah, they’re delicious too!
That’s right, Detroit Lakes’ newest adult beverage sensation, Bucks Mill Brewing, is serving up delicious, ice-cold beer at the games as well. Beer and baseball, that’s a winning combo.
Kettle Korn, what more do you need to know? Show up to the next Ligers’ game for a sweet and salty snack!
After turning things around and getting his life back on track, Johnson, now a school teacher who is married with four kids, found his way back to the sport he loves dearly in 2018, spending a total of seven years away from the game.
“Baseball has always been a major part of my life,” Johnson said. “I never completely stopped watching the game. I continued to watch as much as I could on TV or in person.”
Now, Johnson, 33, is representative of what makes amateur baseball, also known as “Town Ball,” so great—players on the team come from all walks of life with players as young as 14 able to join and no age limit.
“My friends are going to get mad at me, but softball is just too boring for me,” Johnson, who plays the field and pitches, said. “It has been a breath of fresh air coming back to the game. I’ve been coaching and involved with youth mentorship for about six or seven years now. A lot of the fun has come back to the game for me. And, over time, I’ve learned that very little of the fun in baseball actually has to do with the game itself—it’s about the community and the connections you make.”
The remaining home games:
July 19 VS. Ada Athletics
July 26 VS Fargo Mets
To ensure the fostering of community, Ligers games are free to the public and are stocked with an awesome assortment of rotating food trucks located in a sectioned-off area known as “food truck alley.”
“The food trucks rotate often, but some of the ones we have had are The Lovely Lemon, The Ice Cream Truck, Foodie by Spanky’s, Wood-Fired Pizza and Catering, Bucks Mill Brewing, Kettle Korn, and Mini Donuts by Denise,” Johnson said.
Follow the team online for more information and make sure to head out to the ballpark!