There is a lot of uncertainty and animosity surrounding Minor League Baseball right now.
There are 42 teams facing it directly after being noted by Major League Baseball that they are one of the teams to be cut in a proposed realignment plan. The Clinton LumberKings – along with two other Midwest League teams – are on that list.
For that reason, I felt it was important to start sharing some of our local stories that live and breathe in NelsonCorp Stadium, surrounding one specific topic: What do the minor leagues mean to you.
We need to remember two things. One – we still have a concrete and guaranteed 2020 season that the LumberKings staff is preparing for. Don’t forget that one of the biggest things you can do for the club is buy tickets, go to games, and continue to make memories.
Two – we have a wonderful baseball team and infinite memories and relationships that have been formed because of it. We need to remember the positives, and remember that we have a voice in that we can share those positives.
That’s the goal of the LumberKing Loyals story series is to share those stories from our fans, board members, staff and more. If you have a story, memory or special connection to NelsonCorp Field or to the Clinton LumberKings, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can find a time to talk and share your story.
Here is Ted Schultz’s story:
Ted Schultz loves sports through and through.
That’s part of what got him to Clinton, Iowa. After graduating from college, Schultz worked at newspapers in Atlantic and in Wilton. He saw the position for assistant sports editor open up and jumped at it.
The day before his very first day with the Clinton Herald, he made a trip to the ballpark on the Clinton Riverfront to see his very first LumberKings game.
“I remember it being very crowded and thinking how great it was going to be, having professional baseball a five-minute drive from my house,” Schultz recalled. “When I lived in Atlantic, the College World Series was an hour away and I thought that was close, but five minutes? Wow!”
It wasn’t just his first game – it was most of the fanbase’s. You see, the team had just switched names from the Clinton Giants to the Clinton LumberKings days previously.
“The first LumberKings’ game I attended was on a Sunday, literally one of the FIRST games they played at home as the LumberKings,” Schultz said. “It was an early April Sunday before I was to start at the Clinton Herald and I bought a LumberKings’ cap, which I FINALLY replaced after it got so smelly and dirty. I never heard much about the name switch, but it was funny ... more than a decade later, every now and then I’d hear people say “We should go to a Giants’ game.”
Schultz started at the Clinton Herald in 1994 and took over as the sports editor just a little over a year later. With the Herald, he got to see a side of the LumberKings not many get to see – the media side.
“My favorite memory was when Clinton hosted the All-Star Game in 1998 and the fanfare behind that,” Schultz said. “We promoted it very well in the Clinton Herald and for a small market, Clinton knocked it out of the park. Part of the All-Star Game was a trip to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville the day before.
“There was a big picnic there and I got to interact with so many players, both from the LumberKings and other teams. And then the next day, watching the game and all the players I got to know the day before, was awesome.”
Media members sometimes get a look at the team that’s more in depth than fans get to see. Schultz recalls when Sean Burroughs, who played in the MLB for seven seasons, came to town with the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Burroughs had been an instrumental player on the U.S. Little League World Series team that broke Asia’s winning streak in the title game.
“I remembered him from that – he was even on Johnny Carson-and wanted to interview him,” Schultz said. “So we arranged to meet a few hours before a game. We sat in the third-base stands and talked, and when we were done a huge rainstorm let loose so we were stuck there for another half-hour.”
Everything from covering games to an undefeated sumo wrestling career in on-field promotions to Clinton Herald staff parties, Schultz has fond memories of the Clinton ballclub. He even has a close relationship with general manager Ted Tornow.
“I am floored at what a great job Ted Tornow has done as GM of the team,” Schultz said. “I saw such growth of the club and ballpark since he’s been there. Given our jobs while I was in Clinton, we naturally built up a very strong friendship over the years that continues today.”
Schultz and his wife often sat in the bleachers along the third-base line, befriending the legendary ‘Howie’ along the way.
In fact, that’s one of the places they still sit. Schultz works as the sports information director at Grinnell College now, but still visits Clinton often. And when he does, the LumberKings games are a place you can find him,
“It’s so cool to come back,” Schultz said. “What makes it so enjoyable is the down-home feeling from the time you enter the gate with your ticket to saying hi to familiar faces as you work your way to the seat. And then during the game, I love just wandering around! The funny thing is, while I always hope the LumberKings win, in the end I just enjoy the experience of being at the game. We go to a fair amount of Iowa Cubs’ games now that we live in central Iowa, and that’s fun, but there is something missing there that you get in Clinton.
“The feeling there is genuine. You are up-close with the players. It really hearkens back to what I see as the true value of minor league baseball! I have a friend at Grinnell College who made a minor league tour of the Midwest a few years back and told me how much he loved Clinton. He agreed with everything I told him it would be.”