Carroll Merchants’ Daulton Sauce (15) slaps hands with teammate Zachary Elder (8) after scoring a run — the level of play in the Cornbelt League is competitive.
Carroll Merchants’ Daulton Sauce (15) slaps hands with teammate Zachary Elder (8) after scoring a run — the level of play in the Cornbelt League is competitive.

August 29, 2016

Thank you to the Carroll community and the Carroll Merchants.

When a small group of us met almost eight months ago, the idea of a full Carroll Merchants baseball season seemed like a daunting and risky task.

The informal group was comprised of the Carroll Chamber of Commerce, Carroll Athletic Association, and a few local volunteers. There were plenty of unknowns and yet so many possibilities.

What transpired over the past two-month-long season is impressive.

Carroll has its hometown Merchants back!

The schedule was built around the newly formed seven-team Cornbelt League.  There were four teams from Omaha as well as teams from Bancroft, Sioux Falls, and of course, Carroll.

The Carroll Merchants also hosted a game with the Military All-Stars on July 8 (more on that later).  While the final W-L record wasn’t what the team wanted, we fielded a team we can all be most proud of.

We can’t begin to tell you how gratifying it is to see folks in the community, young and not so young, donning Merchants apparel and coming to historic Merchants Park to support Merchants baseball.

The way people in the community were talking about the Merchants really gave our community a sense of pride and ownership in the team.

The local press provided advertising and coverage of the Merchants to round out this season-long experience.

The season was not without its hiccups and sometimes problems.

Merchants Park itself is going through a major renovation.  Rotert Construction and the Carroll Parks and Recreation staff were more than accommodating with the interruption this caused.  The actual baseball season presented some unforeseen challenges including:  last-minute roster changes, game-start times being moved, and a few transportation issues.

But in the end, the positives far outweighed the negatives.

We’ve learned many lessons in our inaugural season and have gotten smarter along the way.

On July 8, the Carroll Merchants hosted the Military All-Star team.  This team is made up of active duty and veterans of our U.S. military and tours the entire country. It became a very special night at Merchants Park as there were many pre-game activities including a flag-presentation to a local war hero. One of Carroll’s own (Andrew Leonard) was on the roster for the All-Stars, and his wife, Sophia, sang a beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was a packed stadium and certainly one of the more memorable nights of the season.

There is more to baseball than simply showing up for the games. There are both financial and logistical issues that start well before the first pitch is thrown and continue well after the last out. The following businesses, groups and individuals stepped forward to make our first season such a great experience:

— Host Families:  Host families volunteered to provide room and board for players for the entire season.  This roster included players from the Upper Midwest, California, Alaska and a few from Venezuela.  Many of the experiences were not only positive but have formed friendships that will go well beyond the season.  In some cases, the host families invited the parents of the players to visit them as well.  It was not without some minor incidents, which is to be expected with a large group of 18- to 22-year-olds, but on the whole was a great experience. After speaking with some host families, several more families have expressed interest in hosting players next season.

— Game Day Volunteers:  These people helped out on game days in so many ways.  They helped set up, sold admission tickets, sold beer tickets, served beer and cleaned up the park after the game. It was fun to see many repeat volunteers at several games.

— Announcers and Scorekeeper:  Randy Nieland took it upon himself to coordinate the scheduling of the finest game announcers in the state. John Parkis was our official scoreboard operator for all but one game.  Even with some last-minute schedule changes, Randy and his team were always there and always did a wonderful job.

— Game Sponsors:  These corporate sponsors took the leap of faith by signing up to sponsor a game, before we even had a team.  Their financial support was critical to us meeting our financial obligations of supporting the team expenses.  In many cases, these companies hosted customer-appreciation events or employee outings at Merchants Park.

— Program Sponsors:  The local companies sponsored our game-day programs.  As with the corporate sponsors, their commitment began well before the season.

— Booster Club:  Booster Club members made a personal commitment to the Merchants by buying their membership to provide additional support for the team.  

— City of Carroll/Parks and Recreation:  The core planning committee worked closely with the City of Carroll.  Mayor Eric Jensen and the City Council allowed the Merchants to play a full baseball season at city-owned Merchants Park. Parks and Recreation Director Jack Wardell helped us coordinate the use of the city-owned field and facilities. Parks Superintendent Scott Parcher was our point person on all things related to the stadium and field.  It would be a major understatement to say the Carroll Merchants play on the best field in the league. We worked closely with Police Chief Brad Burke to develop a responsible process for beer sales.     

— Local Media:  Carroll Broadcasting Company was a tremendous supporter of the Carroll Merchants.  Not only did they promote the Merchants schedule (and changes), but provided game results throughout the season as part of their normal sports broadcast.  On many occasions, they did live broadcasts of the games.  Jeff Blankman brought his usual passion and professionalism to each broadcast with assistance from Lonnie Miller and Jeff Honold.

The Daily Times Herald provided promotional support as well as game coverage and results throughout the season.  This support helped to give their readers a sense of local pride and ownership in their Carroll Merchants.

— Fans:  Game after game, baseball fans of all ages came out to cheer on the Merchants and filled the stands to cheer on your Carroll Merchants.

The 2016 Carroll Merchants baseball season was truly a community effort.  As a committee, we are very happy with how the first year has gone and look forward to many more. We also clearly recognize that none if this could have happened without everyone’s help.

The Carroll Merchants are back.  Thank you all so much.