Heavy fence mars view at Baker

Steve Rambow is not a pushy fellow, but he will fight for his principles. And when it comes to matters of vision and design, he's strong-willed. Rambow is founder and self-described head coach of Rambow, Inc. in New London. The heart of the 25-ye...

Steve Rambow is not a pushy fellow, but he will fight for his principles. And when it comes to matters of vision and design, he's strong-willed.

Rambow is founder and self-described head coach of Rambow, Inc. in New London. The heart of the 25-year-old business is embroidery and screen-printed clothing, mainly sportswear and hats. Visualization -- seeing something before it is completely formed -- is a big part of his business, he says.

He's also past president of the Willmar Fastpitch/Baseball Boosters. He has been one of the citizen leaders that got Bill Taunton Stadium built.

The 1,000-seat stadium is done, except for landscaping. The inning-by-inning scoreboard with message board blinks brightly, even in full sun, behind the right-field fence. The concession stand and patio are in the final stage of construction. The plan is to resod the slightly uneven infield in the fall.

"I am convinced that it will be one of the finest ballparks in Minnesota when it's done," said Rambow on Friday while watching a college baseball game at Baker Field.


But one thing stands in the way of bringing people to the park, he feels. He takes this reporter out to the high berm that runs parallel to the third-base line from the patio to the leftfield fence.

"Look," he says, pointing toward the diamond, "it looks like a prison camp."

There is one heavy, eight-foot fence running down the baseline starting at the corner of the stadium. A second high fence begins at the outfield end of the dugout. The field is fuzzy when seen through the chain link from any distance.

While Bill Taunton Stadium itself offers splendid viewing near the action, Rambow envisions the berm as a grassy spot for picnic tables, lawn chairs and perhaps people out walking pets.

"The fencing needs to come down," he said. "Our design committee all along has suggested a four-foot fence from the corner of the plaza to the left-field corner.

To fortify his and the committee's plan, he has collected photographs of 17 ballparks, many recent state tournament venues. They show dugouts and outfields lines without fencing, or at most a low fence.

None have heavy fencing in key viewing areas, he points out, or a high fence in front of the dugouts, as does Willmar.

He thinks the dugout fencing should come down and be replaced by a knee wall when the dugouts are redone, which is part of "Phase 4."


"People don't like watching the game through a fence," Rambow said.

Removing fence could bring up cost and safety issues. Rambow said some coaches probably like the fencing, especially having the fenced bullpen adjacent to the dugout.

"The city has been awesome at every step in the development of this park," he said. "But after the wind storm (July, 2003), we realize they had to get (fencing) up quickly. Now we want this park to be the most fan-friendly place to watch a ballgame it can possibly be."

CLC girls now go 18

Willmar girls on the varsity golf team are playing 18 holes at all 10 Central Lakes' events. That's a change from recent springs when four or five meets were nine holes. But this year, a parent from Fergus Falls, new to the Central Lakes Conference, complained that the girls were being slighted. Seeking to avoid a Title IX issue, coaches scrambled to make all Central Lakes Conference meets 18 holes, as are the boys' meets.

Willmar coach Jodi Mottinger said she's all for equal treatment, but feels so many 18-hole events may be daunting physically and mentally, perhaps not to the top players, but for those that are less-skilled. Fatigue could be a problem for some of the girls, the younger ones especially. It also means getting out of school earlier and girls don't like to miss classes, she claims. Mottinger said with nine or 10 of the 18-hole CLC meets required, she'll cut back on scheduling her team into 18-hole invitationals.

On the fly

n Two ex-Cardinals competed at the Buena Vista Golf Invitational Friday/Saturday at Storm Lake, Iowa. Eric Tone tied for 22nd (76-82-158) to help Gustavus Adolphus place second out of 20 teams. Luke Juhl tied for 59th (82-83-165) for ninth place St. Thomas.


n Cory Schwantes hits his first collegiate home run, a solo shot, Friday during a split with Valley City at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo. The North Dakota State freshman is being used as a designated hitter. He plans to play for the Willmar Rails this summer.

n Former Willmar resident Mark London was inducted into the Elgin (Ill.) Men's Bowling Association 2006 Hall of Fame under the "Superior Performance" division recently. He averaged 220 the last five seasons in the association. A PBA Midwest Regional bowler since 1991, he manages the Brunswick Zone Deer Park pro shop in Lake Zurich.

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