Tag Archives: Southern Illinois Miners

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.”

It’s Not About the Name on the Front…

This past week has been my favorite week of the year for the last few seasons.

My two favorite visiting teams, the Southern Illinois Miners and the Florence Freedom, play back-to-back series against MY “hometown” team the Washington WildThings.

These three teams mean everything to me, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that it’s not about the name on the front of the jersey, but the name on the back and the guys that carry that name with them.

Indy ball is full of stories. Every player has one.  That’s why I created this website in the first place… to tell their stories to the world.

Not everyone sees the personal side of independent baseball, but I do.

Here are just a few of the guys that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this past week here in Washington, Pennsylvania.

The Southern Illinois Miners

Robby Rowland –  I’ve known Robby for over 8 years through social media. He pitched in the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Cardinals organizations (reaching as high as AA) before landing in indy ball – first with the Lincoln Saltdogs and finally with the Miners. Even though I’ve known him for 8 years, this past week was the first time our schedules have ever lined up allowing me to meet him. He’s quirky, unique, and a super awesome guy. He has his own podcast and blog, the Robby Row Show, and has begun an online coaching program for younger players who want to improve their pitching. He’s a keto athlete who is always posting tips, tricks, advice and motivation for anyone who might just need a little extra push.

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Robby Rowland and his fantastic chart day outfit

Kyle Tinius – Kyle has been with the Miners since he finished college at West Texas A & M in 2016. I’ve watched him grow from the rookie who was always getting picked on in the bullpen who was forced to carry the princess backpack to being the veteran who steps up, takes the rookies under his wing and leads the bullpen fantasy league.  During this past off season, he was also named as Southwestern College’s pitching coach in their inaugural season. The team, based out of Winfield, Kansas, finished 20-26 on the season.

John Werner – John was drafted by the Texas Rangers out of college in 2015. He spent two seasons in the Rangers organization pitching at nearly every level from Rookie ball all the way up to AAA.  After being released following the 2016 season, John signed with the Miners in 2017 and is back for his second season.  He comes in as the team’s all-time saves leader.

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Southern Illinois Miners Bullpen (plus Robby after his start)

Chris Scura – After 18 games in the Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks after college, Chris became a standout hitter in baseball’s “wild west” the Pecos League. This off season, he went to the California Winter League with one thing in mind, get out of the Pecos forever (signing with the CWL forced that decision) and get signed to a Frontier League team. Player acquisition coordinator, Casey Dill, and manager, Mike Pinto, saw something in Chris and signed him going into the season. He was released during spring training, but was re-signed a few days later after an injury to one of the Miners’ starters.

The Florence Freedom

Austin Wobrock – Austin may be on the Florence Freedom now, but he started his professional baseball career with the WildThings in 2014. An all-star shortstop in 2015, Austin was a dependable member of the squad for three seasons until he was traded to Florence.  Austin was a fan favorite when he was a WildThing… so much so that when two young fans were asked to throw out the first pitch last week, they asked if Austin could catch their pitches even though he was on the visiting team.

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Austin with “Mini Wobrock” his bear from the 2014 WildThings team

Marty Anderson – From the Pecos, to the Frontier, to the Mets organization and back, Marty has had quite a journey over the last couple of years. Marty played with the Garden City Wind in the Pecos League in 2016 before signing and playing one game for Florence later in the year. He returned to Florence in 2017 where he was signed by the Mets in July and finished out the year in their organization.  After being released, he returned to Florence for the 2018 season. And while all of this was taking place last year, Marty was preparing to be a new dad; his son was born during this past off season!

Jameson McGrane – If you’ve read about the disasters of the Empire League in 2016 and the Thoroughbred League in 2017, you’ll understand why Jameson is so thankful to be on the Freedom this year. Two experiences with less than honest indy leagues in some terrible and rough conditions could turn anyone away from indy ball forever, but not Jameson.  He went to the 2018 Frontier League draft and was selected as Florence’s third pick. He is currently working out of the Freedom’s bullpen.

Johnathon Tripp – Johnathon was a Texas Tech Red Raider from 2013-2015 where the Raiders went all the way to the College World Series in 2014.  After completing his senior season at the University of New Mexico, he went on to play for the California City Whiptails of the Pecos League. After being highly recommended, Johnathon signed with the Florence Freedom for the 2018 season where he has held on to a back end of the bullpen spot since spring training.

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Florence Freedom Bullpen

The Washington WildThings

Austin Crutcher – Last year, “Crutch” was a rookie in the White Sox organization. After being released, some young players could become bitter; however, Austin has been the exact opposite. His social media and cheerful attitude at the park has been a breath of fresh air in the cut-throat world of indy ball. Every day, I can log onto Twitter and see encouraging and motivating tweets from @acrutch5. I’ve enjoyed his posts so much that I’ve reached out to Crutch to guest blog soon!

Chase Cunningham – After college, Chase had a short stint with the Lincoln Saltdogs in 2015. During that off season, he was traded to the WildThings and has been a mainstay in the rotation ever since. His nickname in college was “The Franchise”, and he is quickly becoming a franchise player here in Washington. The 2017 Frontier League All-Star is a work horse on the mound, a huge team first player, and one of the nicest guys I’ve met here.  His parents are also in town often, and I love getting to talk baseball with them both.  Also, his girlfriend, Ali, recently took their story to Instagram as part of the “WagsInRealLife” IG stories. Indy ball isn’t easy for the guys, but it definitely isn’t easy for the families behind them either. It’s been a pleasure getting to know everyone in Chase’s world outside of the diamond these last few years.

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Chase Cunningham

Frank Trimarco – Another Pecos League alumni (or survivor… however you want to look at it), Frank played last season with the Tucson Saguaros. There, he caught the eye of the WildThings and was added late in the season last year as they made a final push into the playoffs. From a reliable arm in the bullpen, to a starter when needed, Frank “The Tank” Trimarco has become an integral member of the WildThings pitching staff.

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Frank Trimarco and fellow Saguaro turned WildThing Jake Eaton

Reydel Medina – A native of Cuba, Reydel played on the Cuban Junior National team from 2003-2009 before ultimately defecting in 2011.  He established residency in Haiti and continued to train and play baseball, joining the Dominican Prospect League where he became in All-Star in 2012.  Reydel caught the eye of the Reds and became a top international signing for the organization when he made his professional debut in 2014. Before signing with the WildThings after his release from the Reds organization this year, he spent four seasons in affiliated ball, reaching as high as AA last year.

 

Indy ball is full of stories… those guys on the field play for much more than just the name on the front of their jersey.  I just hope that I can keep bringing that side of the game to readers for many more seasons to come!