MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’re on the eve of baseball’s Opening Day, but it’s not just the pros that are getting ready. From Darwin to Warren, in this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how town ball is honored at a one-of-a-kind museum.

“Those of us that grew up playing ball loved to play ball. We’d play in the morning and we’d play at night,” said Bob Karn.

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From home run derbies in the backyard to pick-up games at the park, kids across the state have big league dreams, even if most of their success happens on small town fields.

“I played for the small town of Luxembourg,” Karn said. “They didn’t have a catcher. I weighed 120 pounds. But I loved to catch.”

For Karn, that was essentially the beginning of a Hall of Fame career — the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, to be exact. Karn serves as the secretary of the museum in St. Cloud.

“We have, right now, 305 people who are in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I’m one of them.”

(credit: CBS)

The museum details the history of amateur ball and the players who made it happen. Even their nicknames are included. At one point 12 Frederickson brothers made up a team in Eidswold, Minnesota. Nininger, in Dakota County, was actually the first organized team in the state; they registered just a few years before the Civil War.

“In the early days we got players from all over,” said Karn.

They were — and still are — teachers, farmers, and doctors, playing in towns like Darwin, Kasson and Hamburg.

“You drive through many small towns and they have a few bars, a few churches, and a few houses, but they have a nice ballpark,” Dennis Roysum said.

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Roysum is also a Hall of Famer who believes competition not only happens on the fields but between the fields.

“When Milroy and Springfield get state tournaments, neighboring communities start fixing up their ballparks because they want to compete too and bid for a state tournament,” said Roysum.

The town ball commitment is also historic.

“We had to be at practices. We had to be at every game. The only way you got out of them was marriage, weddings or funerals,” said Pete Cheeley, former amateur player.

(credit: CBS)

The museum honors everyone. Lou Brock once played for the St. Cloud Rox before going on to a Hall of Fame career in the majors.

“The first black ball player in Minnesota was Prince Honeycutt. He played in Fergus Falls,” said Karn.

It’s not unheard of that town ball players love the game so much that they play into their 60s. But when your playing days are over, in this Hall of Fame, strikeouts and home runs don’t matter nearly as much as heart and soul.

“The people inducted into the Hall of Fame are inducted because they are people who care about amateur baseball. Your skills and statistics really don’t matter,” said Karn.

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The Hall of Fame began in 1963 and the museum has been at the River Center in St. Cloud since 1992. It is free to the public. For more information on when it’s open, click here.

John Lauritsen