Tag Archives: Mike Pinto

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

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.

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.”

Mining the CWL

Casey Dill, the scouting and player acquisition coordinator for the Southern Illinois Miners, has been hard at work coaching in the California Winter League (CWL) this off season.  In addition to leading the Palm Springs Power, he is actively searching for players to sign for the Miners’ upcoming season in the Frontier League.

“Coaching in the CWL is a great resource for the Southern Illinois Miners organization,” Dill explained. “It gives me the opportunity to see how players carry themselves and prepare playing a minor league style schedule playing everyday. It gives me the opportunity to see things in players that may not show in a one or two day tryout. It also allows me to maximize the scouting report I provide to Mike Pinto (manager of the Southern Illinois Miners) when deciding which players are the best fit for the organization.”

Pinto loves that Dill knows exactly what he’s looking for while managing in the CWL.

“Finding rookies that can impact your organization is one of the keys to success in our league, but it’s also so important to find players that fit the culture of your organization. Many times we are looking at numbers, where a guy has played, against what competition and you do your best to get some reports on them as a player and person,” Pinto said.

“With Casey out there in the CWL, it gives us the opportunity to see players with multiple lenses.  We can certainly see their history through numbers, but Casey also gets to see them from a scouting perspective, and more importantly, sees what kind of fit that they would be for us.  History has shown us how critically important that is to our organization,” he explained.

 “With my position also running the business aspect of our organization and not able to be at the CWL like some managers are, Casey gives us the chance to not only see players up close in the CWL, but also run a tryout for players on the West Coast who we might not be able to see and have access, eyes and information on some potential college players following the draft.” 

So far, Dill has found three players who fit the Miners mentality:  RHP Adam Falcon, RHP Payton Lobdell, and C Brandon Oliver. 

Dill and the three newest members of the Southern Illinois Miners family recently sat down for an introduction and to discuss the CWL and their expectations for the upcoming season.

Meet the Miners

(Adam Falcon, Casey Dill, Payton Lobdell, and Brandon Oliver)

Adam Falcon

“Adam Falcon stands out as soon as you look at him, in baseball we say ‘he passes the eye test'”, said Dill. “He has a tremendous work ethic off the field and in the weight room. He’s a big strong physical presence on the mound, he has a bull dog / no fear approach to pitching, he wants the ball with the game on the line. He is a power arm that can top has high as 94 mph with his fastball with a plus slider he can throw for strikes in any count. Depending on how he does here in the CWL and in spring training, I think he is a great power arm option out of the bullpen that will help us win games.”

Adam, how did you get to the point where you are now in your career?

A new Independent Fall league called The Desert League started up in Yuma, Arizona and held tryouts in Chandler, AZ on September 15-20, 2016. I wanted to tryout to see if I could get picked up by a professional team. I ended up making one of the teams called the Yuma Hammers, and two days later, our season started. It was my first ever experience as a professional baseball player. After about a month, our season ended and our coaches from the Hammers got a couple of my teammates and myself a tryout in Palm Springs for some Independent and International teams.

What led you to the CWL?

I had signed with the Southern Illinois Miners after the October 30 Palm Springs tryout. Southern Illinois Scouting Supervisor Casey Dill kept in touch with me and suggested I participate in the CWL to get reps in and get scouted much better. I was already familiar with the layout of the field and the area, and thought it would be a good experience for me to play here.

How are you liking it so far?

I’m enjoying myself out here in Palm Springs. I’m just happy to be out on the field competing, and I’m very pleased with the way the league in run. The coaches and staff run the show very professionally and work hard for us everyday.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m looking to develop my off-speed pitches into better put out pitches, keep walks and runs low, and build up some more velocity on my fastball.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

I couldn’t be more happy to sign with such a quality team and organization. In the Palm Springs tryout, it was my goal to get signed with a Frontier League team, and I was so glad to achieve that goal.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to be part of a winning ball club, I expect to develop even more as a pitcher, I expect a whole different ball game in the Frontier League, and I expect to face very tough competition. I couldn’t be more excited to get out and compete.

Payton Lobdell

“Payton Lobdell has 4 pitches he throws for strikes. His fastball tops at 92 mph and usually sits between 88-91. His best secondary pitch is his splitter that he locates down in the zone and forces consistent bad contact from hitters,” Dill explained. “Payton is very mature on the mound, plus pitch ability, he knows how to use all of his pitches to maximize his effectiveness. He doesn’t look to strike everyone out, he looks to force bad contact and trusts the defense to play behind him.”

Payton, what led you to the CWL?

Playing with for Casey Dill with the Palm Spring Power last summer really led me to trying out and showcasing myself in the CWL.

How are you liking it so far?

These last few weeks have been a blast, and I love the guys/teammates that I’m making out here.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I’m really focusing on getting ahead and staying ahead of batters while I’m out here, while also working on my secondary pitches.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was my first pro contract so it is something that I’ll always remember. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to play for to begin my professional career.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to do everything I can to help the Miners win a championship, and I expect to have a great time getting to know my teammates and coaches. I’ve heard nothing but great things that come from the frontier league and I can’t wait to find out.

Brandon Oliver

“Brandon Oliver is a plus defensive catcher that has to potential to control and shut down opposing teams running games,” Dill pointed out. “He receives and blocks the ball very well behind the dish. Perhaps most impressively, Oli knows how to manage and work with the pitching staff, his communication and leadership with our pitchers here at the CWL has been phenomenal, for a rookie he has a veteran presence, he batted .351 at Western Oregon University as a senior so he also knows how to handle the bat well.”

Brandon, what led you to the CWL? 

I had heard of a California Winter League but knew nothing about who it was for or why it was there. I met Miners Scout Casey Dill at a tryout last fall, he thought it would be a good opportunity to play in front of him and other professional coaches and scouts for an entire season. He said it was a place for guys like me to get signed.

How are you liking it so far?

It’s been awesome. I’ve met some great people out here. From the staff to the coaches to the players, I really like it.

What part of your game are you focusing on while you’re there?

I take a lot of pride in my defense I’ve work behind the plate, but my main focus will be offensive. I’ll be focusing on getting my timing and rhythm down.

How did it feel to sign with the Miners?

It felt great. I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted on my shoulders, and I can use the rest of the winter league to fine tune my game, as opposed to trying to get every scout to see me on a daily basis.

What are your expectations for your first pro season in the Frontier League?

I expect to win a championship.

Pinto is also looking forward to seeing what the newest members of his team can do. “I really like what I have heard about Adam, Payton and Brandon. Casey has seen them up close and I am looking forward to seeing them compete for important roles with us this spring.”

For more information on the Southern Illinois Miners, visit their official website HERE.