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Chris Murphy, Published April 20 2013

Twin Valley diamond provides unusual setting for softball games

Twin Valley, Minn. - If you shovel it, they will come.

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton softball coach Ron Drechsel and East Grand Forks Sacred Heart softball coach Mike Marek both referred to it as the “field of dreams.”

Tucked away four blocks west of Highway 32 on Lincoln Avenue in Twin Valley, Minn., is a softball field surrounded by snow banks that go as high as 8 feet. It would appear as a topless igloo if not for the occasional pop fly soaring out of it or the spectators watching something inside of it atop the snow banks.

For Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal softball coach Steve Radniecki, it’s his field, and no snow is going to stop his Titans from playing.

“It’s a field that as soon as you get the snow off, you can play,” Radniecki said. “There’s gravel below, so frost isn’t a problem. So many fields you clear the snow and then you have to wait two weeks for the frost to come up. Here, you usually have to wait about four days, and you’re ready to go. It’s nice.”

It’s not as if getting snow off the field is easy. There’s no guarantee it won’t return.

Radniecki has cleared the softball field three different times, spanning about 15 hours of work.

“The school has an old tractor with a front end loader on it, and every year I clear the field,” Radniecki said. “I usually do it the first weekend in March. In a normal spring, that’s enough. We’re usually on it by the 22nd of March. This year, we kept getting more snow.”

Although it’s surrounded by winter, there’s a little bit of spring inside of it, as NCE-UH played its fourth softball game on the field Saturday against Sacred Heart. After their first game, the Titans stood atop a snow bank that was so high they could touch the numbers on the scoreboard, which is more than 10 feet off the ground.

Radniecki shoveled it. The teams are starting to come.

Friday, D-G-F played games on the field against Moorhead and Badger-Greenbush-Middle River, and Norman County (a co-op of Norman County West and Ada-Borup) played East Grand Forks on Saturday afternoon.

Sacred Heart got to play in its first game Saturday thanks to Radniecki’s work. For seniors like four-year varsity senior shortstop Kalli Hanson, they finally can get their final season of high school softball underway, even if it’s a little chilly.

“It’s exciting,” Hanson said, while shivering and sliding her hands into her sleeves. “I’ve never played with snow around a field, and I’ve never been this cold at a game. It’s a new experience.”

NCE-UH left fielder Ciara Grant certainly acknowledges her coach’s hard work, even if it means possibly chasing down a ball only to lose it in the snow.

“That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m definitely not looking forward to it,” Grant said. “He put a lot of work into it. Every day (that) it’s snowed, he’s been out here, whether it be for a practice or game. We are really lucky, because a lot of coaches would just wait until it melts, but he actually puts work into it and is dedicated enough.”

For Radniecki, his house is your house.

“We’re glad we can help out other teams,” Radniecki said. “It’s kind of an unusual spring. We’re just fortunate that the field has a base of gravel that is many feet thick. I used to joke that I couldn’t tell the superintendent I had gravel there because he’d start selling it and I’d lose my field.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548