I had once visited the town of Jordan, Minnesota, but I didn’t really see it. On one of those December days when the sun goes down a couple of hours after it comes up, my high school basketball team stared out into the endless winter’s night for the ten steps between the bus to the gym. We had no idea that somewhere in the frozen backdrop, one of Minnesota’s most beautiful monuments to the game of baseball lay right before us.
Tonight, it’s July, it’s dusk, and the lights of Mini Met stadium are blinking themselves awake after more than four innings of play, their glow adding to a summer twilight that looks right out of a “Visit Minnesota” postcard.
Players on the Jordan Brewers and their opposition dot the perfectly groomed field. In the outfield, a man tends to the classic, manually operated scoreboard rising above the wall, and tracks the action inning to inning. Rising above the scoreboard is a grove of mature trees that separates the park from the banks of Sand Creek, which flows through beautiful Lagoon Park just a ball’s throw away. The handsome, limestone ruins of the historic Jordan Brewery, the team’s namesake, stand tall just beyond the first baseline. Tying it all together is the tower of downtown Jordan’s St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, the holiest of centerpieces I’ve ever seen bless a ballpark’s skyline.
But a trip to this gorgeous park in this picturesque small town is for more than just the aesthetic. The Brewers have routinely fielded contending teams at the amateur level since the first time they played on these grounds in 1938. Jordan finds itself in the state tournament conversation nearly every year and has three state championships to call their own (winning it all in 1986, 1994, and 2004). It’s no surprise that this year’s team finds itself in contention again, as they prepare to host their first playoff game of the season against the Lake Crystal Lakers at 1pm on Saturday, August 4.
The strong performances by the Brewers on the field is equaled in the fan experience that takes place in foul territory along the third baseline. A long, well-kept grassy hill stretches from the third base bag all the way to the foul pole 310 feet from home plate. Well before the game even starts, the greenery disappears patch by patch as picnic blankets are spread and lawn chairs and coolers filled with the most reasonably priced stadium beer in the state are set out. A stacked concessions stand provides one of the most enjoyable, and cheapest, dinners of the summer, and I don’t hesitate to indulge.
With two hot dogs in hand, I find a spot to settle in the grass to watch the middle of the game and the final moments of the sun setting beyond the Mini Met, beyond St. John the Baptist Catholic, beyond everywhere. Fellow ballpark-goers notice my lonesomeness and feel compelled to offer me a place in their respective parties, their invitations coming in the form of ice cold Bud Light, Miller Lite, or Michelob Golden Light. Their politeness stretches further than mine and turns me from a lone traveler to a part of the hometown crowd.
After another drubbing by the Brewers of another unfortunate opponent, I follow locals to nearby Moola’s Bar, where strangers become fast friends and double as my unofficial tour guides of Jordan. Over rounds of Grain Belt Premiums served in frosted mugs that cost a mere $2.50 a piece, I learn that Pekarna Meat Market just down the street is the “best damned meat market in the whole state.” It’s closed at this hour, but I make a mental note to return when it’s open. It’s not in my nature to miss out on a place described as the “best damned” anything.
I learn that a small brewery called Roets Jordan Brewery has brought the art of craft brewing back to downtown Jordan blocks away from where the ruins of the former brewery stand. The Roets taproom is a perfect spot for a couple pregame pints on a Saturday afternoon, and if you get to town early enough, the breakfast at the nearby Feed Mill is as good as it gets.
When I ask what I feel to be an innocent question—“Is there any good pizza in town?”—a fierce debate erupts between my barstool neighbors on the merits of Clancy’s Bar & Pizza Parlor. I’m simultaneously informed that it’s the best and the worst pizza on the planet, while my bartender shrugs and tells me “it’s a love/hate thing.” I’m not sure who to believe, but I do know I’m regretting the number of hot dogs I had at the Mini Met because I have the sudden urge to find out which one of my new friends is right.
It’s late, though. And if I don’t head back home to the city now, I may never want to. No matter what your concept of home is, this is the kind of place to make you feel like you’re already there. To sit down, have a few, and be present with the world around you.
I shake hands with everyone on my way out, promise to settle the great Clancy’s debate on my next visit, and get in my car to head back toward the city. It’s dark by this point, but the lights of downtown and the lights of the church illuminate my drive down Broadway Street to 169 North. I can’t help but think I’ll be back. I can’t help but think I won’t let as much time pass before I come back again. I mean, it is playoff season, after all, and I’ve got an important pizza problem to solve.
See you soon, Jordan. See you Saturday, probably.