HANNIBAL | Historic Clemens Field will be put to use this summer as the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department has decided to allow baseball and softball teams to play exhibition games and tournaments.
Baseball and softball exhibition games will begin on Tuesday, June 2. Several tournaments are being scheduled throughout the summer.
“Coaches of the Legion teams within the state got together and tried to put together a schedule where they can still play and they were wondering if Clemens (Field) would be available for that,” said Hannibal Parks and Recreation assistant director Aron Lee. “We said of course. We were in preparation to get the field ready for the Legion regardless.”
These teams are not affiliated with the American Legion this season since the state chapter shut the league down. Instead, they are operating as 16U and 18U teams, which had players who had played Legion ball in the past.
Clemens Field has been renovated after flooding damaged the park in 2019. During the winter and spring, the city of Hannibal replaced the decking behind the backstop with concrete, reseeded the grass outfield and did work to the infield.
Lee said the field looks fantastic after the work the city workers did to it.
“It's kind of been all hands on deck,” Lee said. “Especially this past week in trying to work against mother nature with all the rain and getting the field and the entire facility ready to go for these tournaments.”
There have also been several teams from Illinois inquire about renting Clemens Field for games and tournaments.
“(There's a coach) who said they have a team from the suburbs of Chicago that are interested in coming down just to play a doubleheader,” Lee said. “That seems to be the norm with some of these coaches I've talked to, be it youth baseball or girls fast-pitch softball. They just have an influx of teams from Illinois that are looking to pick up games because of the shutdown in that state.”
It will be up to the teams that rent the field rather or not if they want to utilize the concession stand, as the city will not be running it.
The bleachers at Clemens Field will be unavailable, and spectators will be asked to bring their own lawn chairs and practice social distancing.
“This allows them to have a larger space,” Lee said. “If they are not from the same household, they are typically coming together, so they'll be seated together. We are taking precautions so they are not sitting packed together in the bleachers. Plus, all of the (renovations) there … allows them to have better viewing areas.”
Clemens Field lost their main tenant when the Hannibal Hoots of the collegiate summer Prospect League relocated to O'Fallon in the offseason. The Hoots were forced to play most of their games at Quincy last season due to the flooding.
Prior to the Hoots, Clemens Field has also hosted minor league teams for the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns during the 1940s and 1950s. Clemens Field was also renovated in 2008 and 2016, when they added the Jake Beckley .308 Gate, which is named after the Hannibal-born Hall of Fame first baseman.
Clemens Field was first opened in 1938, and is named after Samuel Clemens, who is better known as Mark Twain.
Lee said the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department has not had any collegiate, semipro or minor league teams inquire about fielding a team at Clemens Field.
“We haven't been approached by the Prospect League or any other organizations about wanting to be based out of (Hannibal) for one of those teams,” Lee said.