From the first pitch to the last out, Saturday was a historic day for Anoka’s Castle Field.
Baseball players, coaches and fans from past and present said a final farewell as the city prepares to retire the current Castle Field. Work is under way at a new $1.9 million ballpark on Seventh Avenue, on the Anoka High School campus.
A closing ceremony took place Saturday evening following the Anoka Legion team’s 4-1 win over St. Francis. Earlier in the day the Anoka Bucs team played its final game at the field.
“This Castle Field, our field of memories, will soon be replaced by a new Castle Field,” said Anoka City Council member Carl Anderson.
After many years of debate, consensus among all the stakeholders including the city, the ball teams that use the field, the Anoka Legion Post 102 and the school district, was that it was time to replace the aging ballpark.
For years the groups had weighed their options between improving the current facility or buying a new one.
But when HealthPartners came along wanting to buy the property as the new site of its RiverWay Clinic, the groups decided build a new stadium near the high school.
“In all my time with the city I have never seen such a large group come together on a project,” said Anderson.
The new Castle Field will have many amenities that were lacking at the current location, including improved seating, parking and rest room facilities.
“Our new Castle Field will have everything our players have asked for,” said Anderson.
Members of the Castle family were on hand for the closing ceremony. The field was dedicated as Willard Castle Memorial Field back in 1953 to honor Willard Castle, who was killed on the job at the age of 26 while working for the city’s water and electric department.
“Thank you everybody,” said Beverly Castle, Willard’s sister-in-law and the wife of his late twin brother Willis. “Willard would be so proud to have his name on it.”
Rick Oelschlager of Anoka Legion Post 102 shared the history of the field, which was built in 1950.
According to the Legion’s historical recorders, in 1949 a group of Anoka businessmen formed a group with the intention of building a lighted baseball field and an agreement was struck between the Legion and the city to use the Legion’s land just off Highway 10.
According to Oelschlager, junior Legion baseball went back in the city to 1930, when Walt Jacobs was credited with starting the program in Anoka.
In acquiring its name, Oelschlager said, “Willard was well liked by all who knew him and was one of Anoka’s finest basketball players and he had also done a lot of work on the new Legion club room just across the street from the ballpark.”
Both Willard and Willis Castle served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and were dedicated Post 102 members who also played for Anoka in town team baseball.
Oelschlager pointed out the name “Castle Field” isn’t going anywhere.
“That name will continue on in the new field,” he said.
The new Castle Field will be open for limited play in 2013. Oelschlager said the first game is tentatively planned for July 3, and will include an opening ceremony.
Starting on Sunday work began to dismantle the field, making way for the new RiverWay Clinic, which is scheduled to go under construction Aug. 1.
Dr. Dave Wineinger, a pediatrician at RiverWay Clinic for 20 years, spoke of how both the clinic and Castle Field are at a point where “life as we know it is changing.”
“There are new changes on the horizon for Castle Field and our clinic,” said Wineinger. “We get how all of you feel because we feel it, too.”
Both have been institutions in the community with RiverWay founded as Mork Clinic back in 1931.
“There are plans to build a new clinic and honor Castle Field,” Wineinger said.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]