By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The MINK summer baseball league voted unanimously to add a new team - the Carroll, IA Merchants.
The Merchants play in Merchants Park, which was first built in 1949.
Since 2015, Carroll has put about two million dollars toward renovations and upgrades to the stadium. The team had previously competed in the Pioneer League.
St. Joseph Mustangs manager and MINK League President Ky Turner says the Merchants were a perfect fit for this current group of teams.
"If you look across the league, we have some great communities," Turner said. "We've also got some great playing facilities and some history behind each team. Their town also really supports baseball, so the response from the town has been tremendous."
The Merchants will compete in the MINK’s North Division, joining the Mustangs, Clarinda A’s, Chillicothe Mudcats and Des Moines Peak Prospects. Des Moines just joined the league themselves in 2021.
The South Division will be composed of the Jefferson City Renegades, Joplin Outlaws, Nevada Griffons and Sedalia Bombers.
Carroll did not play a 2020 or 2021 season. The 2020 season was canceled due to COVID, and 2021 due to scheduling conflicts with area high school baseball teams in Iowa, who play their official high school schedule in summer.
The MINK League has also created two new postseason awards. The first being the Bob Steinkamp Manager of the Year Award. Steinkamp served as manager of the now-defunct Beatrice (NE) Bruins. He was the only manager in team history, amassing more than 1,300 wins in his career.
He also managed players such as Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain while with the Bruins. Steinkamp served as MINK League Commissioner, and is currently the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame President.
Additionally, the league will award a postseason General Manager of the year award, named in honor of Jeff Post, who passed away in 2019. Post served as board member and General Manager of the Nevada Griffons. Post also served as MINK League President for five years.
"This kind of gives us a chance to celebrate those accomplishments," Turner said of the awards. "A lot of hard work and a lot fun goes into it, but it gives us a chance to honor some of those people."
Turner and Mustangs coach Johnny Coy are already looking forward to 2022. Together, they helped lead St. Joseph to its seventh MINK League title with a 12-2 win over Sedalia in the championship series in late July.
Turner says Coy just received his championship ring recently, and is already excited about the type of roster he's putting together.
"(Coy) had just opened his ring that we had just gotten in for our players," Turner said, "and he's already gushing about the upcoming roster. So, some familiar faces you'll see soon. We'll pry release (the roster) after the new year, but some familiar faces and some other high level baseball players."
The Mustangs' 2022 schedule will be released in about a month's time. Turner says the team will play their first game of the year against Clarinda - a team that went 32-5 and had the best overall record of any team in the league last summer.
The MINK League All-Star game will be played in Clarinda, Iowa in 2022. Chillicothe will then host the All-Star game in 2023.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.