by Dennis Dalman
Sartell residents’ long-time love of baseball was in the spotlight June 30 when Fox 9 TV News featured the city on its Town Ball series.
Sartell was one of seven Minnesota cities honored in the Fox 9 Town Ball programs that focus on those cities, their strengths, unique features and in particular their athletic parks and baseball programs.
In a nod to Town Ball recognition, Sartell Mayor Ryan Fitzthum had earlier proclaimed June 30 “Day at the Diamond” in honor of the city’s teams, athletes, coaches and volunteers.
The culmination of the TV coverage was the live-streaming of a baseball game featuring “Sartell vs. Sartell” – that is, the Sartell Stone Poneys v. the Sartell Muskies, the city’s two Class C amateur baseball teams. The Muskies won the game hands-down 12-0, with a no-hitter of nearly seven innings pitched by long-time ace southpaw David Deminsky. He struck out 15 batters through a total of 104 pitches. So far this season, the Muskies have won 21 games and lost none.
The Muskies scored all their runs in the first three innings – 5 in the first, 3 in the second, 4 in the third.
Throughout the hot-and-humid day, Fox 9 news reporters and videographers conducted extensive interviews at St. Cloud Orthopedic Field in Sartell. The interviews aired throughout the day on Fox 9 News before the game began at 7 p.m. with the opening pitch thrown by Mayor Fitzthum, much to the delight of the fans who packed the bleachers.
In the afternoon, many young children at the ballpark had lots of fun during a “youth baseball clinic,” learning skills and shooting off steam in rambunctious commotion as a TV reporter did brief interviews with them.
Fox 9 reporters remarked several times at the beauty of St. Cloud Orthopedics Field, and they also noted with a kind of wry amusement how Sartell has not one but two baseball teams.
That fluke, “Sartell vs. Sartell,” was explained during a sit-down interview with the team managers – Jeff Amann of the Stone Poneys and Randy Beckstrom of the Muskies. The Sartell Muskies began in 1979. Throughout the years, there was such a keen interest in baseball in the city that the possibility of forming a second team was considered in order to accommodate more players. Thus, the Stone Poneys was founded in 2010.
Besides being the Stone Poneys’ manager, Amann is a first baseman for the team and also did some of the pitching at the Town Ball game June 30.
Beckstrom said he has been with the Muskies for 33 years, first as a player, later (since 2006) as its manager. Beckstrom said that “pride” is always on the line for both hometown teams, with a strong will to win despite the friendly, spirited rivalry among the players.
Amann agreed, adding “We’re itching for a victory here tonight.”
The Sartell Muskies competed 17 times in the Class C state baseball tournament and won twice – in 1992 and 2013.
The main interviews were conducted by Fox 9 Emmy Award-winning news anchors Alix Kendall and Randy Meier.
Among others interviewed at the ballpark for TV broadcast were the following:
Dean Schellinger and Wesley Johnson are the two PA announcers for at-home games in the Sartell ballpark. Once a player, Schellinger has been announcing games for many years. Johnson, who is only 15, developed early on an uncanny ability as an announcer. He practically “grew up” on the field as his father is Pete Johnson, who was also interviewed.
“My summers are pretty much baseball, baseball, baseball,” said Wesley Johnson.
Pete Johnson is a former Muskies player and manager who shared his memories of the ballpark that used to be known as “Muskies Field” and still later “Champion Field.” In the early days, players, parents, relatives and others worked hard to construct and maintain the field, largely through donations and “sweat equity.” Throughout the subsequent years, major improvements were made to the park, many with financial help from the city. A substantial contribution from the St. Cloud Orthopedic Clinic in Sartell’s Medical Campus caused the field to become known as “St. Cloud Orthopedic Field.”
Also interviewed by Fox 9 were Dean Schellinger’s two sons, Adam and Brian, who are both long-time members of the Sartell Muskies – Adam since 2003, Dean since 2004. Brian is a shortstop, Adam a right-fielder. The “baseball roots” run deep in the Schellinger family, the two brothers agreed.
The interviewers asked Mayor Fitzthum about Sartell’s strengths.
“This,” said Fitzthum, pointing to the people at the ball field, “is what Sartell is all about – a young, growing, thriving community.” The mayor also noted Sartell can boast a very strong school district and a thriving health-care industry right in the city.
Among the teams recently defeated by the Muskies to achieve its 21-0 record are the St. Joseph Joes, the Rogers Red Devils, Elrosa, the Fergus Falls Canes and the St. Augusta Gussies.
The Sartell Stone Poneys scored recent wins over the Farming Flames, the Metro Knights, the St. Stephen Steves, the Clear Lake Lakers, the Rogers Red Devils and the Becker Bandits.
To view the June 30 Muskies-Stone Poneys game and to see the interviews, go to www.fox9.com and scroll down to “Town Ball Tour: In-town rivalry game between Sartell Stone Poneys vs. Sartell Muskies.”
Other cities featured on the Town Ball Tour series were Waconia, Buffalo, Delano and St. Patrick. The two upcoming ones are ball fields in Minneapolis (July 14) and Faribault (July 21).