Tag Archives: baseball

Southern Illinois Miners’ Owners Retire, Fold Team

The Southern Illinois Miners organization has come to an end. Today, the team’s owners announced their retirement from baseball and consequently folding the team. Below is the official press release from the Miners as well as an article from The Southern Illinoisan.

On a personal level, this one really hurts. The Southern Illinois Miners organization has always welcomed me in with open arms. For so many seasons, they were my favorite team when they came to town. I would like to thank Mike Pinto and every Miners player who has treated me with nothing but love and respect.

Official Press Release
SIMiners.com

Marion, Illinois – Wednesday, October 6, 2021 – Today, Jayne and John Simmons, the long-time owners of the Southern Illinois Miners baseball team, have announced that they are retiring from Frontier League baseball ownership. The 2021 season was the last season the team will be playing in Marion, Illinois for the Frontier League.

“This is a bittersweet decision for us,” said the Simmons. “We love the southern Illinois community and our family roots run deep here. We appreciate the years of support we have enjoyed from baseball fans, civic leaders, business owners, vendors and the City of Marion. We are at a time in our lives where we really would like to spend more time with our children and grandchildren.” While the Simmons involvement in the community may look different over time, their love for and appreciation of the people of this community are unwavering.

Supporting the Miners and building the stadium have been a passion and joy for the Simmons and has brought back great memories for them of when they attended the Savannah Sand Gnats games early in their marriage.

The Simmons brought baseball back to the area in the summer of 2007. Under the leadership of Jayne Simmons, the Miners led the Frontier League in attendance each of the franchise’s first four seasons, having been named “Frontier League Organization of the Year” three times (2007, 2009 & 2010) and captured the franchise’s first Frontier League Championship after the 2012 season. The Miners’ state-of-the-art home facility, Rent One Park, was constructed for the team’s inaugural season and saw a Frontier League record 259,392 fans come through the gates in 2007. The Southern Illinois Miners concluded their 2021 season with a 7-3 victory over the Gateway Grizzlies at Rent One Park in Marion, finishing with a record of 54 wins and 42 losses.

The Simmons’ commitment to excellence has been illustrated by the growth of the community, hundreds of jobs and the caliber of the 60 players the team has sent to Major League Organizations. “The success of this team is a testament to the great fans and local community,” said Mike Pinto, long-time manager and chief operating officer of the Miners. Pinto joined the team for the inaugural 2007 season. The team’s .574 winning percentage ranks first in league history for teams that have lasted more than one season, and Pinto is the league’s all-time leader in wins by a manager, passing Frontier League Hall-of-Famer Fran Riordan on June 2nd, 2018, with his 626th victory.

The Simmons’ investment in the team and stadium has been a contributing factor to both Marion’s and the surrounding communities’ economic growth. Since 2007, four new hotels have opened as have dozens of locally owned and operated restaurants, businesses and miles and miles of connecting interstate that helped to fuel the economic growth of the community.  

What is the future of Rent One Park? “The stadium is a wonderful asset to the community and has incredible potential as a multi-use facility,” said Jayne Simmons. “We have high hopes for its future, and we will share more information about the stadium in the coming months.” 

Over the years, the Miners owners, management, players and team members have invested thousands of hours in the community through programs like the Miners Reading Club, Anti-Bullying Campaign, Mascot appearances, fundraising efforts to local organizations,  visits to the Marion VA Medical Center and other hospitals, ticket giveaways for Military Appreciation Night, the Miners Hometown Hero Awards, and so much more.

“John and I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the loyal baseball fans, host families, season ticket holders, the City of Marion, local businesses, our sponsors like Rent One and all of the people who helped us create a generation of baseball memories here in southern Illinois,” said Jayne Simmons.  “We will continue to look for meaningful ways to support Marion and the region.”

‘A legacy’: Southern Illinois Miners team folds; owners Jayne and John Simmons retire.
TheSouthern.com

Mitchell Walters threw the last pitch of the Miners’ 2021 season.

It was also the last pitch in franchise history.

Owners Jayne and John Simmons announced Wednesday that they were folding the team after 14 seasons and retiring, citing the desire to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.

“This is a bittersweet decision for us,” the Simmons said in a press release. “Our family roots run deep here. We appreciate the years of support we have enjoyed from baseball fans, civic leaders, business owners, vendors and the city of Marion.”

That support was the talk of the Frontier League for more than a decade. Southern Illinois set a league record in its first season, 2007, in drawing 259,392 fans — an average of about 5,400 per game at 5,000-seat Rent One Park.

The franchise was voted the league’s Organization of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2010. The Miners won their only league title in 2012, but were in contention for a playoff berth nearly every year.

They enjoyed 13 winning seasons out of 14, going 54-42 this year and posting a club-record 13 shutouts. Manager Mike Pinto went 770-571 for a .574 winning percentage, setting a league record with his 626th win in 2018.

“To have built a standard where we had 13 winning seasons in 14, no one does that,” he said Wednesday from his San Antonio home. “We were the Yankees of independent ball.”

Southern Illinois set a league record in 2010 with 20 consecutive wins and went 39-9 in the first half of the season. That started a stretch in which it qualified for the playoffs six times in seven years, winning a division title three consecutive seasons.

Off the field, the franchise’s success contributed to the building of no less than four hotels in the Hill district where Rent One Park was built. Several restaurants were also constructed as well within a mile of the ballpark.

The Miners’ only losing season occurred in 2017, starting a steady downward trend in attendance. It bottomed out this year as the team finished 11th out of 14 franchises in average crowd per game at 1,502.

Some home games in early September featured official attendance numbers in three figures, although actual crowds were in the neighborhood of 300. But Pinto said that low crowds had nothing to do with the Simmons’ decision to retire.

“I think it’s just as simple as the Simmons family wanted to retire,” Pinto said. “It had nothing to do with finances. They’d poured a lot money into this team the last 14 or 15 years. They’ve earned the right to retire.”

Marion city officials said in a press release Wednesday that they were saddened by the decision but understand it was a business decision.

“We will continue to ensure that the stadium remains a dynamic asset for our region,” the release said. “We are excited to work with the Simmons’ and any future stakeholders on the future vitality of Rent One Park.”

What happens with the ballpark is anyone’s guess. The possibilities include anything from a new tenant to the facility becoming more of a multi-use venue where baseball would be more of a secondary activity.

Regardless, the news resonated not just locally, but on a national level. For instance, pitching coach Eric Minshall had no idea the franchise was about to fold until Pinto broke the news to him.

“First and foremost, I’m thinking about the players and making sure they have a chance to play somewhere else,” he said. “I’ll be fine, but I’m more worried about guys getting jobs and a chance to further pursue their dreams.

“Being a Miner is special and there’s a lot to live up to. I was honored to be part of the legacy and it’s something I’ll never forget. There are long-lasting memories because it was a wonderful summer.”

As of Wednesday, there are no more Miners memories to be made at 1000 Miners Drive.

Walters’ strikeout of Abdiel Diaz that sealed a 7-3 victory on Sept. 12 marked not just the end of a season, but a franchise.

“I feel a combination of sadness at something so special that we built in Southern Illinois,” Pinto said, “and yet I was so grateful that it happened.”

WildThings Miss Out on Elusive Frontier League Championship

20 seasons of baseball.
19 seasons (thanks COVID season) of trying to win a Frontier League Championship.
20 seasons of frustration, defeat and heartbreak.
10 playoff appearances.
7 Divison Championships.
4 Championship Series Appearances.
0 Frontier League Championships.

In Game 5 of the 2021 Frontier League Championship, the Washington WildThings were defeated by the Schaumburg Boomers 10-4.

After splitting the first two games, the series headed back to Washington.

Game 3 went to the WildThings, and it appeared that the championship that had eluded them for so long would finally find a home in Washington, PA.

But the runs just wouldn’t come for the WildThings in Game 4, and the Boomers forced a Game 5 at WildThings Park.

The runs came in Game 5, but once again not for the WildThings. The Boomers put up 10 runs on 13 hits while Washington, even with a little 9th inning magic, only managed 4 runs on 5 hits.

Honestly, I had a completely different article prepared before Game 4 even began. It chronicled my 20 seasons and how much seeing the WildThings bring home the championship really meant to me. I was THAT confident that it would finally be THE year. All I had to do was hit “publish” while I was celebrating.

I poured my heart into that article just as I’ve poured my heart into this team for 20 seasons. Hopefully one day, the article will see the light of day. The guys I highlighted deserve that much.
But here I am crushed and defeated for another season as I see yet another visiting team celebrate a championship at my home field.

It’s been said that “losing builds character.” If that’s the case… this organization and their fans sure have a lot of character built up.

I know I do. I know that without a doubt, without this team, without this stadium, without the constant ups and downs of following Frontier League baseball… I would not be the person that I am today.

Without 20 seasons of Washington WildThings baseball, there would be no baseball Coach Thompson. There would be no Kayla Thompson – NASM certified personal trainer. There would be no Indy Ball Island.

This blog was built around my love for independent baseball. A love that grew year after year. And yes… even loss after loss. The highs are never truly high if you don’t suffer through the lows. And every single season has brought some pretty big highs… and ultimately every single season has brought the lowest of lows.

But I am thankful for my time at this ballpark and following this team.

I’m grateful for all the friendships I’ve made and for all the people that have turned into a second family to me.

I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned and endured through the years and years of heartbreaking defeat.

I was 12 when the WildThings played their first season and lost their first championship series. And 31 year old me is just as disappointed and heartbroken as 12 year old me was… more so actually.

Because now I know everything these players and coaches go through to get here. I know the struggles, the politics, the dedication, the sacrifice, and yes I sure know the heartbreak.

But damn do I just want to know what it’s like to win a Frontier League championship.

Well, just like the other cliché goes… “there’s always next year.”

And if there isn’t a next year for some of you… Zach Strecker in particular… good luck and thank you. Thank you for the years of excitement, character building nights, Frontier League record breaking celebrations, meet the team preseason drinks, a season of way too many selfies, and every single save. Guys like Streck are the reason I keep coming back. Thank you for putting your whole heart and soul into a kids game.