When the high school baseball season concludes Friday with four state tournament championship games, it'll be a different sort of experience at CHS Field.
But it won't be a new experience, not a bit.
CHS Field, the stadium in St. Paul's Lowertown that is home to the Class AAA St. Paul Saints, will host the title games for the first time, but it is a regular haunt for high school baseball teams. Since the stadium opened in 2015, more than 200 high school games, including American Legion games, have been played there.
High schools within the borders of St. Paul are guaranteed one game at CHS Field each year. It's written into the use agreement, Derek Sharrer, executive vice president and general manager of the Saints, points out.
"As a public/private partnership the vision for CHS Field has always been that it would be an asset to the community," Sharrer said.
On a sunny May Wednesday, two of those St. Paul schools were benefiting from the arrangement as St. Paul Academy and Minnehaha Academy took the field.
Atmosphere was aided by a girl student who'd been given the keys to the public address system. No matter that she didn't have all the details. "Batting next, Tommy," sufficed.
A group of Minnehaha Academy students, 15 to 25 of them depending on comings and goings, took up a space along the right-field line. It turns out the team has a loud following. "Our baseball team has a big personality," said Ruben Rubio, seated front row.
St. Paul Academy player Roberto Velez was playing in CHS Field for the third time.
"It gets the entire team fired up," he said. "It's always some of the most exciting games."
Neither of the academy schools made it back for the state championship games. Those participants are Lyle-Pacelli and Fosston in Class 1A at 10 a.m. Friday, Perham and Esko in Class 2A at 1 p.m., Mahtomedi and New Prague in Class 3A at 4:30 p.m. and East Ridge and Rosemount in Class 4A at 7:30 p.m.
It'll be the third game there this week for the 4A schools, whose entire state tournament was scheduled for CHS Field. During this busy stretch of prep baseball, the Saints always ask to be on the road, Sharrar said.
The state finals have been played at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis since that stadium opened in 2010, except for 2020, when no high school baseball season was played because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year the Twins will be in the midst of a four-game home series against the Detroit Tigers instead of hosting the finals.
On that day in May, St. Paul Academy coach Rob Thompson was enjoying the CHS Field setting, and its smooth infield, for the fifth time in six seasons.
"It's very special," he said. "I told the boys, 'Hey, there will be no bad hops today.' "