Canaries Birdcage with fireworks

Baseball in South Dakota

Fireworks at the Sioux Falls Birdcage

When the sun shines, it’s time for baseball in South Dakota. Here are some great reasons why you should put a little bit of America’s national pastime in your South Dakota adventure.

Canaries mascot (credit SFC)
Cagey the Canary (Sioux Falls Canaries)
Pierre Trappers players
Pierre Trappers
Spearfish Sasquatch players (one in mask)
Spearfish Sasquatch

Pro Baseball, GREAT Fun

South Dakota may not have a MLB team, but there’s plenty of heart and skill on display at fields across the state. Heading to “the Birdcage” for a Sioux Falls Canaries game is a summer tradition for SoDak baseball fans. Part of the American Association of Professional Baseball, the Canaries take on teams from Canada to Texas. And with theme nights, specials, entertainment and more, each game has its own unique magic.

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Sasquatch, Trappers, and Big Sticks: Oh My!

Founded in 2017, the Expedition League has created a place for collegiate summer baseball with teams that are as enjoyable to watch as their team names are fun. The Badlands Big Sticks, Spearfish Sasquatch and others face off throughout the summer against teams from Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Canada. Being a new league means there are additional teams in the works, so root, root, root for your new favorite team as you watch high quality baseball without the MLB prices.

Fields of Dreams

A good field makes the crack of the bat even better. Some of the favorites in South Dakota include Hyde Stadium in Pierre (located just across the street from the State Capitol and Capitol Lake), Bob Sheldon Field in Brookings, and Riverside Diamond at Yankton, where slugger Frank Howard may or may not have drilled a home run into the Missouri River. A 2021 update made Fitzgerald Stadium in Rapid City the first all-turf baseball field in South Dakota, adding notoriety to a place already known as the home for baseball powerhouse team Post 22. In Mitchell, Cadwell Sports Complex is home to eight softball/youth baseball fields, but the crown jewel is Cadwell Park, the regular home of the state amateur baseball tournament. In Huron, Memorial Baseball Field opens out into a sea of trees. There’s also a giant pheasant to greet you near the entrance.

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Rapid City baseball field (wide)
Fitzgerald Stadium, Rapid City
Giant pheasant Huron (square crop)
Giant Pheasant, Huron
Leahy Bowl in Winner
Leahy Bowl, Winner

Amateur baseball at its best

People have lives. People have jobs. But people also have a talent and love for baseball, and that comes through during amateur baseball games held across the state every summer. Teenagers 13-19 take the field every summer for American Legion baseball games, but baseball careers don’t end at 20. South Dakota Amateur Baseball means you can take the field at almost any age, providing nice outdoor entertainment that’s become tradition in many towns, cities and, in at least one case, an isolated baseball field. You’ll see.

The Most Unique Field in South Dakota

There may be nothing more South Dakotan than gathering in a field-turned-baseball-field to watch some baseball. That’s just the case with Four Corners, a team in central South Dakota that plays every home game in a field 35 miles west of Pierre. Located at the intersection of US Highway 14, SD Highway 34, and SD Highway 63, this rural baseball oasis may be the ultimate spot to experience baseball in South Dakota. But that’s not the only place to enjoy small-town baseball...

Small Towns, Big Cheers

Small towns sometimes have the most devoted crowds, which means their baseball venues have a charm all their own. A tornado that destroyed the grandstand couldn’t keep Wessington Springs (pop. 900) from baseball, and games still go on at the David Jost Field, complete with rebuilt seating (and the possibility of knocking a home run into the nearby swimming pool). Milbank – known as the birthplace of American Legion baseball in 1925 — celebrates history & baseball at American Legion Baseball Field. In Winner, Leahy Bowl — named for the Winner native that led the Notre Dame football team to four national championships — is one of the state’s most iconic baseball fields, sitting at the bottom of a hill that fans can watch the game from in their vehicles. Located near the Missouri River, Chamberlain’s Greig Field has an outfield surrounded by natural beauty while Parkston’s East Park aka “The Pond” (a nickname earned when it hosted three teams that all had fish for mascots) is a small-town field full of green and cheering fans. Fan vehicles regularly surround the outfield at Menno’s Lily Pad, home of the Mad Frogs.

David Jost Field, Wessington Springs
David Jost Field, Wessington Springs
Player on base at Four Corners
Four Corners field
Baseball in Vermillion (cropped)
Baseball in Vermillion

Big Hits, Big History and the Bambino

South Dakota baseball history doesn’t start in Milbank. Sluggers were playing semi-pro ball in Aberdeen as far back as the 1890s. The legendary Babe Ruth played a game in Deadwood on Oct. 19, 1922, staying in the historic Silverado Franklin Historic Hotel (and probably tearing up the town, given his reputation). There’s a picture of the Bambino in South Dakota in Salo Hall/South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in Lake Norden, a museum that may be the only one in the world devoted to amateur baseball. And if you’re in the mood for some old-time baseball, the Fort Sisseton Historical Festival (held annually the first full weekend in June) sometimes has historic baseball reenactors that provide a fun look at what baseball looked like in its infancy.

Old Time Baseball at Fort Sisseton Festival
Historical baseball at Fort Sisseton
Baseball trophy at SD Amateur HOF
SD Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, Lake Norden
Bat and decorations at SD Baseball HOF
SD Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame, Lake Norden

Major League Faces

Cal Ripken Sr. managed the now-defunct Aberdeen Pheasants from 1963-1966, a team that was known for producing players like Don Larsen (who would go on to become a New York Yankee that pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series), Bob Turley, receiver of the Cy Young Award in 1958, and MLB Hall of Famers Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer. Maybe there's something in the water here?

Perhaps the most famous South Dakota native to make it to the big leagues is Sparky Anderson. Born in Bridgewater, he played for the Cincinnati Reds for 9 seasons before going on to manage the Detroit Tigers from 1979 to 1995. In that time, he set a record for all-time leader in wins by a Tigers manager and was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame.

Carrol Hardy was the only person to ever pinch-hit for Ted Williams, a man considered one of the greatest hitters of all time. Mark Ellis started life in Rapid City but retired with the fifth-best all-time fielding percentage for a second basement in Major League Baseball. Born in Pierre, Floyd Bannister went on to finish a MLB career #135 on the list of all-time strikeouts, while Aberdeen native Terry Francona rose through ranks to become a successful pro baseball manager, leading the Boston Red Sox to a World Series win in 2004. As of 2023, Francona is the manager of the Cleveland Guardians.

Famous South Dakota baseball players trading cards

Snag a seat, grab some popcorn, and root root-root for your new favorite South Dakota team. Don’t forget to check out local museums for more history on all things baseball in South Dakota.

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