In the spring, Minnesota’s high school baseball teams circle the game or two they get to play at US Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The experience can serve as a touchstone for their high school careers, while also serving as a transition to the higher stakes of collegiate baseball for those who will go on to play there.
Not this year. Making matters more frustrating, Minnesota teens aren’t even being cheated out of their US Bank experience by other baseball teams, or by the Vikings or other football games. Rather, it’s basketball that has conspired to take away the largest site most Minnesota baseball players will ever see, thanks to the NCAA.
As reported by Twin Cities ABC affiliate KSTP, the NCAA Final Four will be played at US Bank Stadium starting April 5. Because of the significant logistics required to transform a full-size NFL stadium into an oversized college basketball venue, the stadium didn’t have the ability to serve as a baseball field in the interim.
While that’s certainly an understandable reason for not using the facility as a baseball field, it doesn’t make the lost opportunity any easier for the teams and teens who are missing out.
“That experience will not happen for these kids now and that’s disappointing,” Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association President Rick Zellner told KSTP. “Only so many teams get to the state tournament, and we treated this weekend as our state tournament – coming up here to play.
“I would say baseball is not welcome here, and U.S. Bank Stadium is supposed to be the ‘People’s Stadium.'”
To put the massive scale of transformation into perspective, consider the difference between 2019, when the Final Four will be contested in Minneapolis, and 2020, when the NCAA Wrestling Championships will be held in the same stadium. The 2019 high school and collegiate baseball campaign at US Bank was wiped out. The 2020 campaign allegedly won’t be impacted, even though another NCAA championship event will be held at nearly the same time.
No matter how one looks at it, the entire scenario is unfortunate for high school baseball players from across Minnesota, particularly seniors in the Class of 2019.