What? You haven’t heard of the River Falls Fighting Fish?
No, they don’t hang out in the Kinnickinnic River or Lake George, a minnow bucket or a creel. They do their thing on the RFHS baseball field and other area hardball establishments where they take on Bull Frogs, Honkers, Mudhens, Skeeters, and sometimes when they’re feeling especially feisty, Pirates and Bandits. These strange sounding monickers are those of the amateur town baseball teams from Beef River, Grantsburg, St. Paul, Hager City, Prescott and St. Croix Falls, respectively. The Fighting Fish beat the Beef River Bull Frogs to win the Wisconsin Baseball Association (WBA) championship last August 21. And you thought Fighting Fish was an unusual name for a baseball team? Did you know there was a Beef River, Wisconsin? Neither did I.
OK, so who are these guys, the Fighting Fish?
Many are people you may know, or have heard of: Marty and Jack Herum, J.P. Feyereisen, Brian Giebel, Ryan Gilbertson, Adam Stuessel, Clint Kempf, Colin Pechacek, Adam Brathol, Tyler Hunter, Greg Cheever, Trevor Gutting, Jason Hunt, Brandon Gilbertson, and Nate Soley, all of whom are RFHS graduates who now live and work elsewhere, or are attending college. Then there’s Brad Erdrich, RFHS senior; Nate Schurman, Greenwood School Princicpal; Matt Walker, UWRF Football Coach; Joe Paatalo, RFHS teacher; Nathan Brom and Sam Giliuson, UWRF grads and mixologists at Johnnies Bar; Ryan Bishop, RFHS Teacher and Baseball Coach; Josh Eidem, team manager, UWRF grad and Cottage Grove teacher. Joel Schaffer, Dan Kretovics,and and Dan Morgan, all UWRF grads, live in or near River Falls and work elsewhere. Only Justin Peterson, Baldwin, and Rick Wells , Stillwater, must content themselves with no RFHS or UWRF connection, but nevertheless live in the River Falls “orbit.”
Doesn’t this team already have a place to play?
Yes, and though the RFHS field is adequate, lack of lights is a handicap. Because of scheduling conflicts and inability to play double headers (would require lights), only 10-11 home games can be scheduled for the state WBA champs this summer. That’s a dictionary definition of deprivation—for Fish fans, that is. And once people get to see this team in action, THEY WILL BECOME FANS, GUARANTEED. That happened to me last summer. On a lighted field, the team could play as many as 25-30 games, sometimes during mid-week, or on Friday nights, at more convenient times for working people.
Another handicap: the RFHS field is relatively hard to get to. There is a parking lot west of the field, but to walk from there is difficult for older or handicapped folks. And a walk from the parking lot south of the high school is about a block.
Another drawback (for other than pure baseball fans like me, who are there for the art of the game only) : lack of opportunity to down a frosty one on a hot summer afternoon while watching the game. No alcoholic beverages can be sold at the high school field. How ya gonna have the third “b” in “baseball, brats, and beer” in that kind of circumstance? And, according to those in the know, beer sales are a significant part of team revenue.
Yeah, but isn’t a new ball park expensive? Who’s gonna pay for it?
According to Josh Eidem, team manager, “the Baseball Bash held recently at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course, attracted 408 people and raised $6,700. in gross receipts. To date, we have raised just under $8,000. toward the project itself.” Though that’s a great start, Eidem says, there’s still a long way to get to the 400 to 500 thousand dollars needed to complete the project.
The Fighting Fish Baseball Board, composed of Cedric Ellingson, Fred Barr, Brian Pechacek, Ryan Bishop, Dave Dintemann, Josh Eidem, Joel Schaffer, Clint Kempf, Tim Frey, Mark Hallberg, Brian Giebel, Curt Bruns, and Pat O’Malley “will begin meeting with local and regional business men within the next month to bring corporate sponsors on board to help pay for different parts of the ballpark, as well as to begin the Donor Brick Drive,” said Eidem, “and we hope the rest of the funding can come from a construction/development loan, to be paid in yearly installments from concessions and advertising sales.” Donor Bricks, or engraved paver bricks, will be part of a “Donor’s Plaza” patio in front of the concession stand.
Frisbie Architects is doing a considerable amount of design work as an in-kind donation to the project, Eidem said. “We are currently working with them on a grandstand design, and expect to seat between 250-300 people in the main grandstand,” he added. Louie Filkins of Ogden Engineering has built us a grading plan, Eidem said.
But Eidem stressed that the ballpark project “isn’t just a baseball project. Building a ballpark is an investment in River Falls that has the potential to encourage people to move here and draw current residents together. In these tough economic and politically divisive times, it’s important that we have enough public places with a reason to gather to reaffirm the common bonds that tie us to River Falls and to each other.”
And it’s not just about baseball for the Fighting Fish: the 2010 season was dedicated to the RF Food Pantry, an effort which contributed approximately $1,000. in food and money collected.
Now, at least, you’ve heard of the River Falls Fighting Fish. Anyone interested in sponsorship ideas, or who has thoughts about how to help with the ballpark project, please contact Josh Eidem at 651.335.0030.