May 31, 2022 at 2:58 p.m.
“When the boys were young, they told me, ‘Dad, we need our own field,’” Bruce said. “They started putting dents in the shed because they were getting so good.”
When Bruce asked his mom, who owned the farm at the time, if it would be OK to build a baseball field, she said, ‘You have to ask the cows.’
The field became a reality in 2004 when Ryan was 10 and Justin, 8 – giving these farm boys the perfect place to practice their favorite sport. They named it Krebs Field, and soon their baseball teams were practicing and playing games there as well. For the Krebs family, baseball was integral to life, and a field on the farm combined work and play in one place.
When Justin grew up, he chose to keep farming with his dad, and today, the duo milks approximately 32 cows and farms 560 acres. Part of their acreage includes 189 acres that Justin rents from Bruce’s aunt and cousin and in turn sells the feed and grain that he grows. Justin also raises Angus and Holstein steers for additional income and hopes to buy more land in the future. Ryan has a full-time job off the farm but helps with fieldwork as well as maintenance on the baseball field in his spare time. Their mom, Helen, also works off the farm but puts a lot of time and effort into growing a variety of beautiful flowers to compliment the property.
“We’re really lucky,” Bruce said. “Ryan and Justin are the best.”
The farm has been in the family since 1939, and Bruce is the third generation to run the farm. When Bruce was in sixth grade, he convinced his dad not to sell the cows, and by the time he graduated from high school, Bruce owned most of the herd. Carrying on his parents’ legacy, Bruce is working hard to pass that legacy to Justin and ensure a future for his son as the fourth generation. When he turns 70, Bruce plans to stop taking an income.
“If you do what you love for a living, you’re a success,” Bruce said. “When I was 18 years old, I started putting money away for retirement; not that I ever plan to retire.”
Spring is extra busy for the Krebs who pour themselves into prepping their baseball diamond for another year of play. Teams have been coming to practice at Krebs Field ever since Justin started Little League in 2007. Bruce coached Justin’s team, and Ryan’s team also practiced on the field.
“The field has really transformed since we were little,” Ryan said. “When he first started to make it, Dad took a chisel and drove around. The grass looked like pasture, and there was no fence or dirt behind second base. We marked it off, so we knew where 60 feet was. We also had no back stop. It looked more like a farm field than a baseball diamond, but we wanted something, and that’s what we had.”
“It was a lot of work getting it to where it is now,” he said.
Even though it would take a couple years before the area started to look like a real baseball field, the Krebs overlooked no detail when building their field. They continued to add more features, like a backstop when too many balls got lost, a fence and two foul poles as well as an electronic scoreboard in the outfield. The center field fence is 242 feet, the left field foul pole is 215 feet, and the right field foul pole is 195 feet. Other amenities include bleachers, a bench and a United States flag waving in center field.
Currently, Sun Prairie Little League teams use the field for practices and scrimmages. Tournament teams from Columbus also practice on Krebs Field. A constant stream of people come and go all summer long as the field is occupied almost every weekday. Teams are allowed to use the field free of charge.
“I never ask for anything in return for use of the field,” Bruce said. “You have to give back a little. I don’t have time to volunteer, but I do have land and can give people an opportunity to see what a farm looks like and get away for a bit. It takes a lot of time and effort to do this, but I appreciate the thank-you’s.”
Before the season starts, they install the bases, rake and paint lines on the field. With approximately 100 practices held on the field each year, regular upkeep is critical.
“We rake, chalk and paint all the time,” Ryan said.
Krebs Field is kept in pristine condition, with the perfectly manicured grass resembling a giant, green carpet. Justin keeps the grass cut short by mowing the field every other day.
“We need to keep it short for good playing conditions,” he said. “During summer, the players’ cleats help keep it short too.”
The Krebs also built a batting cage in the shed next to the field, and area teams borrow use of this space as well. With a plethora of bats and balls on hand to pick from, players can finetune their hitting skills. The building’s walls are lined with baseball memorabilia including framed newspaper clippings and photos featuring the teams Ryan and Justin were a part of. Notes and cards from area teams expressing appreciation for using the facility also hang on the wall.
“Hopefully my kids will play on Krebs Field someday too,” said Justin, who will soon be marrying his high school sweetheart, Sammy.
Growing up, Ryan and Justin were fortunate to have the best resources at their disposal to excel as baseball players. Justin won back-to-back Division 1 high school state championships with Sun Prairie in 2013 and 2014, and Ryan won a state championship in 2012. In his senior year, Justin turned a game-ending double play when he caught a line drive at short stop which he then threw to first base. Justin, 26, now coaches junior varsity baseball for his former high school.
When Bruce created a special place for his sons to play baseball, he built a home for making memories. For nearly 20 years, Krebs Field has been an inspiration to the Krebs family and so many others in the community who they share it with.
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