Snappers to Sky Carp: Beloit fans stick with team
BELOIT, Wisconsin -- 2021 marked the end of the line for Pohlman Field, home of Beloit, Wisconsin’s Midwest League team since 1982. During that farewell campaign, the High-A Miami affiliate, then known as the Snappers, had seven full-season ticket holders. Not 700, 70 or even 17. Just seven. Pat and
BELOIT, Wisconsin -- 2021 marked the end of the line for Pohlman Field, home of Beloit, Wisconsin’s Midwest League team since 1982. During that farewell campaign, the High-A Miami affiliate, then known as the Snappers, had seven full-season ticket holders. Not 700, 70 or even 17. Just seven.
Pat and Ken Arndt were among this band of diehards, and today they can be found rooting on the local nine at ABC Supply Stadium, Beloit’s new home for Minor League Baseball. This facility, located along the Rock River a foul ball away from Illinois, opened in August 2021. The following offseason the Snappers rebranded as the Sky Carp, a slang term for a goose and, if you want to look deeper into it, a metaphor for the renewed commitment that Beloit natives feel for their hometown.
Pat and Ken Arndt aren’t from Beloit, however. When they first began attending Snappers games, in 1996, they were living in comparatively far-flung Elizabeth, Illinois. Their interest in Major League Baseball had waned in the wake of the 1994 strike, and they were seeking to expand their horizons.
“We fell in love with Minor League Baseball, and we started coming [to Pohlman Field]. We would drive 85 miles to get to the game,” said Pat. “And then we just fell in love with the place, the front office and all the fans, who became our friends. So we kept coming.”
Within two years the Arndts decided to become season ticket holders, logging thousands of miles driving to and from Pohlman Field throughout the summer and using their vacation time to follow the Snappers on road trips. Pohlman Field, then a community-owned team, was a barebones facility. Groundskeeper Jameson Wilcox, who tended the turf at Pohlman Field and now does the same at ABC Supply Stadium, described it as “old school Minor League Baseball” and a “glorified high school field.”
For the Arndts and fans of their ilk, the lack of amenities was, in its own way, an amenity. The ballpark’s intimacy and access were unparalleled, making it easy to forge relationships with fans, staff, players and even the Midwest League president. The late George Spelius, who lived in Beloit and whose family still runs a local flower shop, often sat directly in front of them.
“Back then the players weren’t as well fed as they are now, so Pat made food for them,” said Ken.
“We still keep in touch with some of them,” added Pat. “Aaron Hicks was one of ours that we fed, he’s up with the Yankees now. And Rod Devers. He’s now a chiropractor down in Texas. Manny Parra and Dennis Sarfate were with [the 2003 Snappers]. And we really got to know them well. Dennis played over in Japan. … We kept in touch with him. He just had a baby boy.”
When it came time to say goodbye to Pohlman Field, Ken said that “bittersweet is the word.”
“We’re thrilled for the players, because we knew that whenever they went away they got better playing fields,” added Pat.
The Arndts, now enjoying their retirement years, moved to Roscoe, Illinois five years ago. They are now only a 10-mile drive from Beloit and can be found at ABC Supply Stadium in their front row seats right behind home plate. They keep score every game, alternating each inning. (During our conversation, however, the scoresheet became populated with what Ken abbreviates as “NW”: Not Watching.)
“We’re on a retirement income, but this is so much a part of our lives now,” said Pat. “By the time September comes around we’re ready for a break because you need to rest up. By December you’re ready for baseball to start again.”
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.