Written by Megan Fraase (@meganfraase)
Originally published by Empire Media LLC
Ask a diehard baseball fan to describe the perfect setting to watch their sport of choice, and they’d conjure up images of a warm summer night, plenty of ballpark food and a place like Jack Williams Stadium. Nestled between Elm Street in North Fargo and the Red River, you’d be hard pressed to find a stadium as true baseball as Jack Williams. This year, Fargo’s beloved baseball field turns 50.
Teams and fans alike love the atmosphere at the park, which makes for a great place to take in one of the more than 100 ball games played at Jack Williams in June and July.
“It’s a quaint little ballpark with a lot of history, and we’re proud to have it in Fargo,” says Jim Pettersen, Vice Chairman of the Post 2 Board of Directors.
Pettersen first became involved with Post 2 Baseball in 1978, when he was a coach for the Fargo Bombers. Now a board member for 12 years, Jim remembers the years before Jack Williams Stadium was even a thought. He has fond memories of watching the Fargo-Moorhead Twins, a Cleveland Indians affiliate team, at Barnett Field. The field, which was torn down in 1963 to make room for Fargo North High School, also played host to American Legion and Park League ball.
With Barnett Field out of the picture, Fargo’s American Legion team played its games on North Dakota State University’s diamond, which at that time, was a field with little seating or accommodations. Fargo’s movers and shakers knew this wasn’t a long-term solution and sprang to action.
A meeting at the Fargo Elks Club eventually led to discussions about a new stadium in Fargo. Instrumental in the effort were American Legion members Joe Parmer, Jim McLaughlin and Bob Smith. The Fargo American Legion agreed to lead the fundraising effort, and the project began.
“These three were giants in the formation of Jack Williams Stadium, along with many volunteers from that great organization,” Pettersen says.
In June 1966, the facility opened and was officially christened Jack Williams Stadium before a crowd of 3,000 spectators. The namesake of the stadium is North Dakota American Legion Department Adjutant Jack Williams, one of the originators of American Legion Baseball.
When Pettersen became coach of the NDSU Bison baseball team, he worked with Joe Parmer, the Fargo American Legion Baseball general manager to make Jack Williams their home field.
“The stadium served the NDSU baseball program for many years prior to the construction of Newman Outdoor Field,” Pettersen says.
Today, Jack Williams is considered one of the finest American Legion Baseball facilities in the U.S., and, throughout its 50-year history, much has gone into keeping it that way.
“It’s one of those things that’s been a kind of labor of love,” Pettersen said.
Jack Williams Stadium has seen many updates that have helped it stay at the top of its game. Some major additions include an upgraded brick press box and concession area, an expansion of the locker rooms to include a club room, new fencing and a new backstop, new batting cages and ESPN broadcast-quality lighting, installed for the 1992 American Legion World Series, which the stadium hosted.
“We’ve had a lot of supporters over the years,” Pettersen says. “It’s just been fantastic.”
The most recent example of the Fargo-Moorhead community’s support for the stadium was the purchase and installation of a new scoreboard, funded by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 1426. Another special feature at the ballpark are the Randall Rustad Batting Cages, which were renamed to honor Randall, who was a longtime Fargo American Legion coach and board member who passed away unexpectedly in January 2015.
“Without that kind of help, it’s hard to imagine where we’d be,” Pettersen says.
In addition to the support of community members passionate about baseball, the City of Fargo and its park board also play an active role in maintaining the stadium, offering help with the watering system and much more.
These constant improvements have helped Jack Williams Stadium secure hosting duties for many high-profile events, such as three American Legion World Series in 1983, 1992, and 1995, and numerous central and mid-state regional tournaments. The stadium even served as temporary home to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, who played 10 games there during the inaugural 1996 season while work on Newman Outdoor Field wrapped up.
Post 2 also boasts some impressive stats, including 23 state championship titles, and three players who went on to play on Major League teams: Roger Maris, Rick Helling and Chris Coste. Countless others have gone on to make a splash on college and minor league teams.
Jack Williams Stadium has been the home of Post 2 Baseball—one of the most storied programs in American Legion Baseball—for 50 years and Pettersen hopes it will remain a fixture in Fargo for a long time to come. The winning tradition of Coach Jerry Harter (1,999 wins) made the stadium legendary as well. Pettersen recognizes Jerry and former coach Kurt Gigstad for manicuring the field in a tradition Post 2 still strives for today.
“Jack Williams is a tribute to all legionnaires who came back from military duty to help build communities,” he says. “It’s been a work in progress over 50 years, and we’re looking forward to another 50 years.”
|Date||Dollar Amount||Name & Ticket #||Date||Dollar Amount||Name & Ticket #|
|June 1||$50||Tanya G. (#0891)||July 2||$50|
|June 2||$50||Kevin K. (#0513)||July 3||$50|
|June 3||$50||Cate C. (#0801)||July 4||$50|
|June 4||$50||Jon S. (#1374)||July 5||$50|
|June 5||$50||Melissa S. (#0481)||July 6||$50|
|June 6||$50||Matthew R. (#1091)||July 7||$100|
|June 7||$100||Brandon L. (#0867)||July 8||$50|
|June 8||$50||Brian H. (#0770)||July 9||$50|
|June 9||$50||Vivian S. (#0164)||July 10||$50|
|June 10||$50||Carter S. (#0032)||July 11||$50|
|June 11||$50||Shawn C. (#0453)||July 12||$50|
|June 12||$50||Donn B. (#0214)||July 13||$50|
|June 13||$50||Ross B. (#0438)||July 14||$100|
|June 14||$100||Jeremy L. (#1760)||July 15||$50|
|June 15||$50||Dave R. (#1043)||July 16||$50|
|June 16||$50||Val P. (#0194)||July 17||$50|
|June 17||$50||Lynn H. (#1095)||July 18||$50|
|June 18||$50||Evan M. (#0424)||July 19||$50|
|June 19||$50||Darren H. (#0461)||July 20||$50|
|June 20||$50||Duane F. (#1148)||July 21||$100|
|June 21||$100||Karri S. (#1019)||July 22||$50|
|June 22||$50||Gage P. (#0466)||July 23||$50|
|June 23||$50||Brent M. (#0700)||July 24||$50|
|June 24||$50||Jason W. (#0193)||July 25||$50|
|June 25||$50||Pam B. (#0730)||July 26||$50|
|June 26||$50||Charles R. (#1736)||July 27||$50|
|June 27||$50||Gloria I. (#0387)||July 28||$100|
|June 28||$100||Lacey W. (#0062)||July 29||$50|
|June 29||$50||Ken A. (#0105)||July 30||$50|
|June 30||$500||July 31||$500|