MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A fire destroyed much of an historic ballpark in southern Minnesota Wednesday evening.
According to the Waseca Fire Department, just after 8 p.m. firefighters responded to flames at Tink Larson Field in Waseca. Crews spent about an hour and a half trying to put out intense flames as the fire spread very fast.
The Waseca County News said the fire burned through the concession stand and the grandstand, destroying both.
Hundreds of people lined the streets near the field, watching as the landmark was destroyed.
Firefighters remained on the scene for hours putting out hot spots. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Tink Larson Field was built in 1939 and was called Community Field back then. It was built as part of President Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration.
In 1994 the field was renamed after Tink Larson, a legendary figure in high school baseball in Minnesota.
Larson first moved to Waseca in 1967 and led different levels of baseball to more than 2,500 victories, including a Class A state championship in 1990. He is a member of 11 Halls of Fame.
Larson, now in his 70s, is an assistant baseball coach at Minnesota State University Mankato. Along with playing on the field, Larson has been its longtime caretaker. He also coached four different teams at the field.
The Waseca County News said Larson sat on a nearby sidewalk last night with his grandchildren watching as the field burned.
"I quickly ran out and looked out my window and the whole place was up in flames," he said. "That was awful."
He told WCCO the last several hours were "devastating," and that it represented the second biggest loss of his life following the death of his wife two years ago. He said the building was a big piece of the community and will always have a piece if his heart.
"I used to think some of the ball games that I lost, like state championships games, things like that that we lost, they were bad," Larson said. "But this hurts worse because this is a lifelong thing that we just lost."
Steve Christ, who also coaches Waseca teams, says he has been getting texts and phone calls from generations of players.
"This here, it almost feels like you lost a family member," he said.
Christ says Tink Larson Field was about more than just baseball.
"It was more than the game -- it was the fellowship before, the fellowship after, that made it so special," he said.
The fire marshal is expected to be in Waseca Thursday to assess the damage.
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