By Nick Gerhardt
St. Patrick’s Bonin Field is pretty near quintessential town ball in Minnesota.
The field sits behind a Catholic church in an unincorporated community in Scott County between Prior Lake and New Prague, though the church’s address is Jordan. St. Patrick’s Tavern and Restaurant is a little more than a stone’s throw away from the church and the field.
Bonin Field, named after a former Catholic priest, Leo Bonin, officially opened in 1952 and fans began watching games from the hillside. There’s only been a handful of major renovations of the field but now the field is getting one of its most noticeable upgrades.
The St. Patrick Athletic Association started a backstop renovation project this past fall and expects to have the upgrade completed by the start of the 2019 season. The team and the SPAA plan to hold a backstop dedication ceremony June 9 to recognize the efforts of all those who contributed to the project.
The Irish, along with youth teams and the 35-plus Shamrocks team, have called Bonin Field home for years and have played in front of a 30-year-old homemade wood timber and chainlink backstop. It’s a common sight at older ballparks but the SPAA felt it was time for an upgrade.
Those who turn out to Bonin Field for a game this season will see a brand new cement kneewall/retaining wall and net. It should provide a better viewing experience for fans because it will only have four poles. From directly behind home plate there will be 58 feet of unobstructed views. Since the field is built into a hill, the backstop serves as a retaining wall, too, and it was moved in about 10 feet closer to home plate. The kneewall runs from dugout to dugout.
“The old backstop had been falling into disrepair, and we wanted to completely renovate the backstop and modernize its aesthetics and enhance fan views,” said SPAA President Mike Sticha.
The SPAA financed the project through its annual ATV raffle fundraiser, a grant from the Twins Community Fund, donations and some volunteer labor. The SPAA has saved the profits from the ATV raffle for the past five years and received a $2,500 donation. The group got a jolt in financing when board Vice President Kevin Hart applied for a Twins Community Fund grant last spring. St. Patrick was chosen as a recipient and received $10,000 for the backstop project.
“But before we started, we developed a project team from within our organization,” Sticha said. “It was led by current SPAA board member Eric Solheid, longtime St. Patrick Irish supporter Terry Sames, and current Irish player Will Walsh. All three of these men have tremendous talents: Eric owns his own construction company; Terry is a retired cement foreman, and Will works for Quad E Companies, a Lakeville company specializing in excavation and drainage. All three (including Quad E Companies) were willing to donate their time and talents, starting with Will and Quad E Companies demolishing our old backstop. They continued by prepping the area for our kneewall footings. Terry and Eric were our foremen for our kneewall footing pour, as well as prepping the forms for the kneewall, and the kneewall pour.”
The SPAA saved about 25 percent of the original cost estimate of the project through the help of volunteers and discounts it has received on products and services.
The ballpark underwent a major transformation back in 1989 and projects since that time have included a new electronic scoreboard in 2004, infield irrigation in 2008, drainage tile in 2012 and the entire field got irrigation in 2015.
The Irish open the 2019 season April 28 against Lonsdale at Bonin Field.
Photos courtesy of St. Patrick Irish