AUSTIN EDITION Marcusen Park needs preservation

Historical significance makesit invaluable

Last week's announcement that the Austin Parks and Recreation Department will upgrade the facilities by the bandshell is good news for those who enjoy the area along the Cedar River, but there is also reason for baseball fans to lament.

If the city of Austin can afford to upgrade what is to be known as Central Park in the area along South Main Street, why can't Marcusen Park be part of that renovation project?

A revamped baseball stadium in the middle of a nice new park facility with basketball courts, etc., would only enhance the image of this town for sports enthusiasts.

Certainly, there are many downsides to the continued use of the venerable old ballpark along the river -- the odor of the sewer plant and the propensity of flooding are at the top of that list -- but Marcusen Park is a treasured relic and not something to be abandoned.


History lesson

When Hans Marcusen donated the land where the ballpark named in his honor now stands, he had no idea what it would become. Many fabled names from Austin's glorious baseball past honed their skills on that field.

Granted, the glory days of baseball in Austin have long since passed, and you won't ever again see crowds of 5,000 people in the stands or Minnesota Twins legend Kent Hrbek landing in a helicopter in center field, but still something must be done to preserve Marcusen Park.

Maybe, those in charge of the park's fate should sit down and chat with my old friend Dick Seltz, longtime coach of Austin High baseball and an ex-player with the legendary Austin Packers of the Southern Minny League. When Seltz waxes nostalgic about his days at Marcusen Park, the listener can't help but get a little misty-eyed when pondering the fate of this icon.

Sitting in the upper tier of stands at Marcusen Park, a true student of history and avid baseball fan can still hear the echoes of those long ago crowds. The historical importance of Marcusen Park in the legacy of Austin baseball cannot be underestimated.

Wuertz watch

One former Austin High baseball player who is trying to create his own historical legacy is Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Wuertz. Invited to the Cubs major league spring training this year, Wuertz has made the most of his opportunity on the mound.

After years of pitching in the Cubs minor league system, it looks like Wuertz has a good chance to make the major league club this season. In his most recent outing on Saturday afternoon, Wuertz threw one-third of an inning and recorded an out against the San Diego Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex.


This came on the heels of a five strikeout performance in two innings of relief work on Friday. Wuertz developed his skills on the mound at Marcusen Park and those halcyon days spent along the banks of the Cedar River might take Wuertz all the way to Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Northwest baseball

While certain sections of the sports community lament the seemingly inevitable passing of an old ballpark, a new chapter in Austin baseball soon will open on the northwest side of town.

The infrastructure is largely in place for the new complex of fields being built on the land to the north of Riverland College. The stands, fences and dugouts have all been erected, but it will take at least this summer for the field grass to grow in.

Yet, this new complex of fields will never have the atmosphere of Marcusen Park. The river doesn't wind lazily past it nor will there be any ghosts from baseball's heyday haunting the new environs.

Soon all fans will have to remember about Marcusen Park are the melancholy words of an old Frank Sinatra song, "There used to be a ballpark right here."

Scott Kolb is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He writes a weekly Tuesday column and can be reached at

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