Editor's Note: This is the second installment of an occasional series that will explore sports venues throughout the state and revisit the most memorable moments. Today — Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Steve Klauke didn't build Spring Mobile Ballpark. The longtime baseball broadcaster has, however, spent more time in the facility than anyone else.
Since the stadium opened in 1994, Klauke has missed only four games.
He's had an office in the building for more than four years.
"I know every nook and cranny of the ballpark. I don't think there's a place I haven't been to before," Klauke said. "Certainly in the summertime, it's a home away from home."
And Klauke has the best seat in the house.
"I try not to take for granted the great view from my booth at the ballpark with the mountains in the background," he said.
Especially, Klauke added, early in the season when they're capped with snow.
The view from the corner of 13th South and West Temple is spectacular.
It's given Klauke a great vantage point to watch the stadium's history unfold.
Topping his list of memorable events is the first of two exhibition games between the Salt Lake Buzz (now Bees) and Minnesota Twins.
Salt Lake defeated Minnesota 4-3 in the afternoon affair on June 15, 1995.
"It was just an electric atmosphere that day," said Klauke, who noted that the first Salt Lake City appearance by a major league team in years drew a large crowd (14,596) and was preceded by a home run derby.
Future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett participated in both events. He homered in the hitting contest and was 2-for-2 in the game before departing in the bottom of the third inning.
"I guess we couldn't find anything better to do on our day off," Puckett said of the Twins' brief stop in Utah. "Actually, I had a good time today."
So, too, did the fans.
"(They) were able to see an entertaining game and to see Kirby and the other major leaguers play," Buzz manager Phil Roof said after the contest.
"I'm sure they got their money's worth."
Twins manager Tom Kelly had similar thoughts after a return visit on the afternoon of May 13, 1999. Minnesota prevailed 10-9 in a seven-inning exhibition before a crowd of 7,764.
"It was one of those fun things that you go out and enjoy with the fans," said Kelly, who raised the ire of Salt Lake's players by saying that no one at the Triple-A team had earned the right to be promoted to the big leagues at that point of the season.
"Once somebody wants to step up over here, play a little bit and show that they can play consistent ball with some pizzazz, then maybe we'll move somebody," Kelly explained.
The highlight of Minnesota's second appearance in Salt Lake was the return of Marty Cordova, who earned 1995 American League Rookie of the Year honors a season after playing for the Buzz.
"I don't mind coming here," Cordova said. "If we have to play somewhere, it might as well be here. This is the nicest facility in the minor leagues."
The stadium was showcased in 1996 when it hosted the Triple-A All-Star Game. Klauke ranks it as the No. 2 event in the ballpark's history. The venue was sold out for both the home run derby and all-star game, a first for the Triple-A gathering.
At No. 3, Klauke lists the stadium's first game on April 11, 1994.
Although Edmonton defeated Salt Lake 7-1 that night, if failed to dampen the excitement associated with the return of Triple-A baseball to Utah after a10-year absence. A packed house marked the occasion.
And fans have gone through the turnstiles with great regularity ever since. In less than 16 full seasons, the franchise has drawn more than eight million fans. It took Omaha, by comparison, 41 years to reach 11 million.
"It's a great ballpark," Klauke said. "Some other ballparks might have better amenities and some other things in their favor, but I think for 16 years it's weathered the storm pretty good."
Improvements such as auxiliary scoreboards and a video screen, he added, have been made as time has passed. The complex has undergone a couple of name changes as well, going from Franklin Quest Field to Franklin Covey Field to Spring Mobile Ballpark.
On the field, several notable players have passed through town. Klauke recalls a then 19-year-old Alex Rodriguez playing at the stadium in 1995.
Other standouts to play at the facility include David Ortiz, Torii Hunter, Eddie Murray, Raul Mondesi, Darin Erstad, Bartolo Colon, Hideki Nomo, Andres Gallaraga, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and John Lackey, just to name a few.
Memorable plays are also in memory yet green for Klauke. He recalls a grand slam that became a three-run single when Salt Lake slugger Bernardo Brito passed a base runner in 1994.
Then there was the night when team owner Joe Buzas pulled the plug on the boy band "98 degrees" when a sellout crowd demanded that a fireworks show begin instead.
Although a few concerts and soccer matches have been held at the stadium, America's pastime is king at the facility. High school and college games, including a Mountain West Conference tournament, have taken place around the schedule of a professional franchise that moved to Salt Lake City from Portland, Ore.
The team's name may have changed — the Buzz became the Stingers and they were re-dubbed the Bees when Larry H. Miller bought the team in 2005 — but the primary tenant and game have remained a constant.
"I think for people who enjoy the sport of baseball and have seen some of the things that have gone on here and some of the players they have seen here, it's kind of special from that standpoint," Klauke said.
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