by Dave DeMars
Back in 2010, town baseball was flourishing in central Minnesota, especially in Sartell. The Sartell Muskies were the local team and as is usual, the size of the roster was limited. There were a lot of guys with a real passion for the game that were being left on the sidelines because there just wasn’t enough playing time and positions to accommodate them. The shortage of playing time gave rise to a second team the Sartell Stone Poneys.
By 2014, Jeff Amann had joined the Stone Poneys. He had been playing town ball since 2006, so he had plenty of experience and obviously had a passion for the game. In 2015, he was asked to take over as the team manager. He has been the manager since that time.
It’s a job that takes time, lots of time, according to Amann.
“It’s a ton of work,” Amann said, “and a lot of times players don’t appreciate it because they don’t understand all the work that goes into it. But I wanted the team to stick around because I had fun playing and I wanted to do what I can.”
This year the Stone Poneys are having a tough time getting going, but that doesn’t slow down Amann. He has a good case of optimism, and he knows it takes time to build a team. And that seems to be the catch.
A lot of hometown teams have well-seasoned players who have been in the game for 10 or 15 years. That is a problem for the Stone Poneys, Amann said. Right now, Amann and one other guy are the only ones over age 25. That means they have a lot of new faces in the lineup.
There were nine new faces on the team last year, and this year there are eight more new faces on the team. There are many first- and second-year players stepping up to take a cut at the ball.
Right now, the team could be thin for several games because a lot of the players are still playing college ball. In fact, the Stone Poneys have one player who is still playing high school ball and waiting to finish that season before joining the Stone Poneys.
In a recent May 23 game against the Clear Lake Lakers, Amann used his aging 32-year-old arm for seven innings. His first three innings went well, but the Lakers caught up to him in the fourth.
“Clear Lake hit the ball well,” Amann said. “They had a couple of bloop hits that we maybe should have caught, but what killed us was that we left so many guys on base. We had the bases loaded a few times and we didn’t score. We had guys in scoring positions a few times and we didn’t score.”
That night the team was missing some of its power hitters. It’s important to have the right guys to put in positions like that, Amann said.
“It’s kind of frustrating,” Amann said, “ but at the same time I thought it went alright for this early in the year.”
Once he gets his power hitters back and all the guys who are still playing ball elsewhere, Amann looks to inflict a little hurt on those rival teams.
Speaking of the May 23 loss, Amann said eight of the nine players had been signed within the last 2017-2018 season.
“I was the only guy (who) had more than a year’s experience,” Amann said. “Kimball who won the state tournament last year – they have guys who have played together for 16 years. They know each other. They know how each other works.”
That is what the Stone Poneys are trying to figure out. And they have a short amount of time to do it. Amann thinks they may be jelled by mid-June or the first of July.
“Our record right now is 0-6,” Amann said, “but I think come late summer when we(‘ve) got everyone there, and we kind of got the routine down, I think we could make it to playoff ball.”
The Stone Poneys also have a few new pitchers who have been throwing but have not been in games yet. If they come through, Amann said he feels the team will be very competitive.
“If all these guys continue to stick together, we are going to do just fine,” Amann said.