New Market’s Tom Carpentier enters 37th season in DRS league

Posted on April 23, 2014 by CJ Siewert

The Dakota-Rice-Scott League has long been know as a league comprised of “true” town teams – players competing for their home communities where the baseball field is one of three major landmarks in town, including a church and a bar, of course.

Tom Carpentier, of New Market, has valued playing townball so much that this year marks his 37th season in the DRS. Carpentier, 53, is the oldest player in the league and has had stints with New Market, Elko and Union Hill.

Mike Sticha, the DRS webmaster, got the chance to talk with Carpentier about his playing days and wrote the feature story below.

Written by Mike Sticha

With his sleek, slender, and athletic build, the average fan or opposing team may not notice anything wholly different about the New Market Muskies’ Tom Carpentier as he trots out to man his spot on the field, or digs into the batter’s box.  With his hat pulled down tight above his eyes, and his Phiten necklace dangling around his neck, Tom looks like most other players on the field.  In fact, he may look even more athletic than most.  But there is something different about Tom, and it’s a trait he hides very well to those giving him a first glance.  This 2014 season, at the age of 53, Tom will be the oldest player in the DRS League, and will be entering his 37th consecutive year of playing amateur baseball (all in the DRS League). 

Tom was born in New Prague, MN, and raised in New Market, MN, where he formed the love of baseball at an early age.  “Growing up in a small town, in that era, there was not a lot of things to do. So, I played baseball every day of some kind. Most of the time we would make up a game because we never had enough guys.  The most common game was Left-Handed Home Run Derby with the inside of a tennis ball. I realized I was good at it and better than the rest. I loved playing it as well, so those two pushed me into baseball,” recalled Tom.  He was better than most, and was the captain of both the basketball and baseball teams while attending New Prague High School, going on to play college baseball at St. Cloud State.  

In 1978, Tom started playing amateur baseball for his hometown New Market Muskies.   In 1983, he shifted a few blocks away and played for the Elko Express, but was back in New Market for the 1984 season, a season in which New Market reached the State Tournament.  In 1997, Tom started playing for the Union Hill Bulldogs, and was there through the 2006 season.  The 2006 Bulldogs finished 2nd in the State Tournament, a team he felt was one of the best he played on.  Having advanced so far in the State Tournament, Tom planned to retire after that season, as it would be a fitting end to a stellar career.  However, he was talked out of retirement that offseason in order to help revamp his hometown club, New Market.  He joined when the 2007 season commenced and remains there today. 

However, longevity and skill are only parts of the equation.  Tom has conducted himself on the field in a truly professional manner, forming respect and admiration across the league.  

Todd Bergstrom, Manager of the New Market Muskies and long-time friend spoke about the kind of man and player Tom is, “Tom is the first one at the field and usually the last one off the field.  He sets a great example and is a great guy the kids [on the team] look up to.  He’s even the Godfather to my son Tyler, he’s just a great guy.” 

Having played with Tom for nearly a decade in Union Hill, John Masberg was able to see firsthand the benefits Tom brought to the team, “He made everyone else better around him because of his work ethic and love of the game.” 

Tom’s passion for the game was evident to Sean O’Neill, who was also a long-time teammate of Tom’s in Union Hill.  “He played hard, was an extremely smart player and hated to lose.  I guess that’s as big a reason as any why I enjoyed our seasons together.  We both disliked losing almost more than we enjoyed winning.  He was one of those veteran guys that understood so much about the game and could translate and share it with others.  Though he was quite a bit older than many of his teammates, he could still relate to them and fit in.”  Recalling the 2006 2nd Place season, Sean went on to say, “He [Tom] developed a serious illness that summer, but battled back to be a big part of our season.  We fought through several elimination games in division and regional playoffs and made a great run through the state tournament finishing second.  Against Essig in round two which was an elimination game, Tom led off the 10th inning with a hit down the third base line.  His hustle turned that single into a double.  He then scored the winning run on a single by the next batter.  As usual he got a great read on the ball off the bat and flew around third to end the game. I think it encapsulates things in that Tom paid attention to the finer details of the game and didn’t take things for granted. He was as excited – if not more – than any guy on the team.  Just a fabulous memory of a terrific tournament for Tom and Union Hill. 

Seeing a player with such productive longevity in the DRS League, many may wonder what drives Tom to continue playing, and for other insight on his experiences while playing the game.  Tom provided some great detail; please find his full comments below: 

What drives you to continue playing?

There isn’t just one thing that drives for this. I still really enjoy the competition that it brings. I can still compete at this level so the juices are still going. The teammates are a huge part of this as they make it fun. Still being part of the amateur baseball gig as it has grown in the DRS and especially since it has been revised in NM is a factor as well. It is my form of exercise and mental break. Some guys golf, fish or whatever. I play baseball. The fact that my body allows it is by itself amazing, even to me. So without that, no chance I could have kept playing. I don’t think I am any different than a lot of the guys when I say I love the game. I am fortunate for the talent and the chance to keep playing at a high level yet. Nothing better than the smell of baseball oil in the glove and the sound of cleats on concrete and wood bats. The strawberries on the butt and the uniform full of mud and grass stains. How can’t you love it?  Oh yeah, the crappy 3.2 beer after the games too. 

What do you enjoy most about the game? 

I think this goes hand in hand with above answer. The game itself, at a high level, and competing in it. The players! Has to be right guys to enjoy all above. 

How has amateur baseball changed from when you started playing?  

Changes have been dramatic. The level of talent on every team is very good. There are now guys that don’t start that are very good players. Seems like every team has three or four good pitchers now. Early on there wasn’t that talent because there wasn’t that type of talent pool to draw from. All kids are starting from T-ball on and have so many resources to play and improve on their skills if they want. Parents are pushing them and are willing to take the kids anywhere to help them. There are so many teams the kids can play on. We had nothing growing up other than local Pee Wees. We were lucky to even play a game or two during the summer. Coaches are better at every level as well.  More college kids looking for places to play, adds to this pool as well. More High Schools and population obviously is another factor. The field conditions are another major change. There is nobody that would believe the types of fields we played on when I first started. Snow fences and in some cases, wired cow fence was used. Fields were absolutely horrible. But all the teams, in general, were responsible for fields (as is now) but nobody had money to improve them. The amount of games played, in a year, has increased. We would usually just play the league games only. Now we are playing 30 to 40 games a season. This is a good thing, and needed, if you want to continue to keep your players and improve your team. The DRS League, is a strong league, and the board has been instrumental in keeping up with the times, technology wise and implementing, supporting state guidelines. The board needs to continue to grow and support this league, in my belief, to help keep the DRS strong. 

How have the players/attitudes changed since you started playing? 

In general, I think the attitudes of all the players I compete against, and play with, are very good. I think it has changed like everything else has seemed to, but for the better. Most players realize how fortunate they are to be in MN and have the opportunity to keep playing competitive baseball after their school teams are done. I believe they respect the game like they should.

But there also is that attitude with some players coming in, because of the facilities, camps, and year around playing, that just showing up you are guaranteed something. I am not degrading anyone, but this league, is in general, small town. Which means we do our own work on the field and work hard to raise money to improve the field and continue to upgrade equipment, uniforms etc. A lot of players and parents are not used to that. With the bigger rosters, it is not easy finding playing time as most have come to expect. You will draw more fans to the game if it is local kids they know. 

What advice would you give to a young ball player just starting his amateur career? 

Become part of that team, realize how fortunate you are and ENJOY IT!!!!! They are friends for life. 

Do teammates or opposing players rib you for your age?  

All the time. All good though and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

How many more years do you think you’ll want to play? 

I think I will always want to play. But I have been trying to quit for 10 years. So, I consider every year my last year and enjoy what is in front of me. “This is my last year” 

Did you ever play in the 35 and Older League?

I played with Union Hill last year for the first time. They joined the Federal league which allowed players to play both.

What is your greatest memory or most cherished moment you can recollect from your amateur playing days? 

There are a lot of moments before and after games I will never forget with different players and friends. But I would have to say hitting Four Home runs in one game against New Prague at New Market in 1994. Made it extra special as New Prague was a very good team with very good pitching. No cheap ones. The one thing I will never forget is playing with my brother Kevin. Amazing power hitter and amazing times. Way too many memories that I will not forget or share. One more thing. I was elected by my teammates to the All Star game in Belle Plaine in 2010??? Can remember the year. Adam Wiener was coaching Union Hill and was the Head Coach for the DRS that night. I had one at bat in the ninth inning. When I came to the plate, the DRS team and then the fans and then the opposing dugout gave me an amazing standing ovation that was not expected!  I know Wiener Dog probably organized this, but regardless, it broke my heart and sent tears down my face as I stood in the box. Will never forget that. 

In your time in the DRS League, name a handful of the greatest (skill) players you either played with or played against? 

That is tough one to answer because of my perspective and the amount of respect I have for my teammates. From the early years the one guy that stands out is Darrell Vosejpka. He was hands down best hitter I’ve seen. In New Market, two pitchers I will mention because they are no longer associated with this league:  Matt Germar threw as well as anyone I have seen and had a ‘no quit’ attitude. Mike Gerowitz was one of the best I have ever seen as well. He took New Market to state tournament in 1984. Unfortunately he was one and done. I am going to pass on naming others out of respect for all I played with and play with. There are some amazing players on Union Hill and New Market. 

What rivalries have you been a part of, or enjoyed seeing in your time involved in the DRS League? 

One was New Market vs. Elko. Small towns with just New Market guys playing against mostly Elko guys and their handful of recruits. If you were there, you will understand it. Lots of money changing hands, ha. With Union Hill, New Prague and St. Patrick were the Bulldogs’ hated rivalries. Those games were so fun and always had enjoyable banter after words. I don’t think there is that rivalry like that anymore. There are teams you may like to beat more than others, but not like it was 10 years ago or more. I think it becomes more of an individual thing now. 

Family – You currently play with your nephew Mike, explain the feeling that brings you? 

Playing with Mike has definitely given me another reason to stick around. My brother Steve played with New Mareket in 70’s and was on the first state tournament team and Mike is his son. So pretty cool. 

How has your family been involved in your baseball career?  Have they always attended games?  Have they always been supportive?  

There is no way that I could have played baseball this long if it wasn’t for the support of my family. It was rare for me to miss events for my kids but if I did they understood and supported me. My wife was an enormous part of that as raising two kids and leaving to play ball was not an easy task for her…..or all the injuries and mood swings that came with it. 

What occupies your time away from baseball? 

I love my job and have been doing it for 27 years. So that keeps me busy but mostly being outside. I like to hunt and fish, spending time with family friends and trying new brew pubs and restaurants. Love to work out. Getting into traveling more and I am looking forward to that.  I have season tickets to Gopher Hockey in winter, so that keeps me humping as well. So normal stuff. 

If you hadn’t played baseball all of these years, what do you think you would have done instead?

Oh my god….no idea. Bought a boat and fished? Maybe got fat and ate Big Macs?? Bought a cabin on a lake like the rest of Minnesota people? Enrolled in the Rolling Stone club and became a certified minister and married people in exotic places for cash and or a bottle of beer?? 

Physical Health – You are in great shape, what are your secrets? 

No secret. I work my butt off to stay in shape and I eat right. I enjoy the workouts so it makes it easier. Eating right is a challenge at times but I like to eat so I get creative. 

Have you had any major injuries or “DL” stints? 

I have had a few tough years. Broken nose from bad hop in NM but the major stuff was in UH. Had some stomach issue that became serious for a while. Surgeries and hospital time but always made it back for the state tournaments and playoffs it seemed. Had some surgeries on shoulders in the off season that I certainly didn’t enjoy but part of life I guess. All worked out. 

What aspects of the game have become harder to deal with as you’ve gotten older?  Do you have more aches/pains?

There is no doubt the one thing over last few years is the skill level has dropped and it takes time to regain it. I would be lying to everyone if I told you I was the same player that was knocking out 15 homeruns a year and playing SS. Having said that, if I couldn’t still compete at this level with the majority of the guys I would quit! Aches and pains are part of it but staying in shape has allowed me to keep playing another……who knows how many more years it has given me. 

The next time you’re at a New Market Muskies game, take a closer look at the athletic guy with the #11 on his back.  For him, age is only a number, and the love of the game has proven long-lasting.

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