|Monday, August 12
For the love of the game
By Jim Caple
STARK, Minn. -- I asked Myron Seidl whether there was anything I should ask Bud Selig when I meet with the commissioner this week and he said yes: "Ask him when he's going to resign."
You probably don't know who Seidl is but trust me, he should be baseball's commissioner. He lives on a farm in a little southwestern Minnesota township called Stark, which is great for Stark but a loss for fans everywhere else. Forget Selig or Bob Costas or George Mitchell or anyone else you've ever heard mentioned for the commissioner's office -- Seidl is the man baseball needs.
How much does Seidl, 46, love baseball? I could write that he's played on the Stark town team for three decades, managed it for 13 years and has been the league president for the past decade. Or I could mention that he's being inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame next month. But the best way to describe his love for the game is to listen to his wonderful and understanding wife, Cathy.
"We spent our honeymoon at this ballpark," she said, pointing to the diamond where Stark's team has played for half a century. "We got married on Saturday and there was a game the next afternoon. My wedding dress was in the backseat of the car.
"People call home for Myron and I tell them to call the park because that's where he lives."
A lot of people love baseball, but it's Seidl's experience and his stand on the issues that make him the best candidate for the job. Just check out his resume.
Stadiums: As Stark's team president, Seidl wants his baseball field to be as nice as possible but he doesn't bully the taxpayers into building one with a retractable roof for $350 million. Instead, he, Linus Kral and others rounded up players, board members and volunteers who helped build the dugouts and the concession stand for a fraction what they could have cost. There aren't any luxury suites but there are some nice benches by the dugouts that the team bought from a golf course for $5 apiece.
True, he will hit people up for money when the team needs it but he hits up the right people. The bankers. "They hate to see me coming but a lot of local farmers have money in that bank so it's hard for them to say no," he says.
Seidl takes care of that park, too, lovingly mowing, chalking and watering it, often with his children helping. The night his oldest daughter, Andrea, graduated from high school, he went to the field first and mowed the grass in his suit and tie.
Promotion: Seidl appears on a weekly radio show called "Behind the Home Plate," and he doesn't waste precious airtime telling fans why their team can't contend against the bigger towns; he promotes the game. He's always spreading the gospel of baseball. That's why he and his family pitched a tent outside the Metrodome this year to get in line the night before Doug Mientkiewicz Bobblehead Night. Then he gave the dolls away to the kids who sold the most raffle tickets for the team.
Building for the Future: Stark's games normally start at 8 p.m., but if kids are still playing a game on the field, you know what the team does? It lets the kids finish the game before starting the scheduled game. Seidl knows if the next generation is to love the game as much as he does, the kids have to be able to play, too. "Some of the ballplayers don't like it but those little kids are the future of the game," he said.
That's why he helped organize the annual Kids Day, when Stark holds a picnic at the field and kids receive leftover giveaway items from the Twins.
It's also why he helped coach local girls softball teams, serves as a judge at the science fair, helps coordinate the Red Cross bloodmobile and chairs the parish council for his church. And that's all while raising a family of four children (including 17-year-old Kevin who has hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain), working a job at 3M and running his small farm.
I have no idea if he sleeps.
Labor: About the only qualification Seidl lacks is experience negotiating multi-billion dollar labor contracts. On the other hand, he does raise a head of 40 big old steer on his farm, including a 3,000-pound Holstein named Herman, which is pretty much like dealing with Donald Fehr and the players union.
Is there anything else on Seidl's list of qualifications? Oh, yes, that's right. One more thing. When Stark hosted the East Tomahawk All-Star Game a couple years ago, the game did not end in a tie.
Unfortunately, there is one holdup to Seidl being commissioner. He doesn't want the job. He would much rather stay in Stark, mowing the outfield grass, chalking the infield and playing ball with the aroma of the hamburgers floating over from the concession stand.
Seidl has lived his entire life here and now that I think about it, Stark is where he belongs.
He's too good for the major leagues.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.