State tournament stories: Final thoughts and making ‘The Joe’ special

By Bob Greeley

2018 Shakopee Tri-Chair

The Shakopee Indians opened their 2018 season with a May 6, 2 p.m. home game vs. Henderson. They won 13-1 in seven innings. Player parents helped to run the concession stand and three had press box duties.  

Players’ kids shagged foul balls and received a nice treat at the concession stand for their efforts. Adult volunteers helped with taking tickets and handing out programs.  And what happened minutes after the game happens I am sure across those many nice town team ballparks all across Minnesota following home games. The players broom swept, raked, dragged, packed, watered and re-covered the mound and home plate areas with tarp for the field’s next user.       

Girlfriends, spouses, parents, grandparents, and volunteers waited as the players worked on the field postgame. It’s a ritual. Music was blaring on the press box sound system. Eight-10 players did the work in less than 30 minutes. They have it down to a T.  And so it is. Those still around the park eat hot dogs, consume some beverages, and talk about the game and ask “how did the Twins do” against the White Sox this afternoon. (Twins won 5-3). The city of Shakopee Public Works crew will arrive on Monday morning to clean the restrooms and pick up the garbage and recycling. The underground irrigation system will be started up for the first time and we begin another summer of fun at “The Joe.”  

Bill Egan leads the efforts in helping keep “The Joe” nice. His city of Shakopee Public Works crew works closely with the Schleper boys in making that a reality. Also this summer, the grass playing surface is receiving some extra TLC from the efforts of Duane Slaughter, golf course Superintendent at the local Stonebrooke Golf Course. Duane is known as our own George Toma aka Turf Master. Volunteers are also taking turns mowing the field all summer.

Lots of sweat equity has and is being put into this fine baseball facility by many volunteers to put it into top, state tournament quality condition just like the other small-town ballparks across Minnesota that are past state tournament hosts. While these other very fine ball parks across Minnesota receive headline notoriety from various media outlets, “The Joe” continues to play “second fiddle” and is not included on most anyone’s list as a recognized, top-notch facility. Perhaps it’s because Shakopee isn’t a small-town anymore. Maybe “The Joe” is not unique enough.  Whatever it is; we take a lot of pride in “The Joe”. That’s what really matters, right?  It’s ours. It’s nice. Very nice. We want to keep it that way. And Joe would want it that way, too.        

It is well past 4:30 p.m. now as I leave the ball park. It reads 74 degrees on my vehicles temperature gauge. Just a few weeks ago we had 17-inched of snow on the ground. I just spend almost three hours at the ballpark. Time well spent. The last one to leave “The Joe”? That would be Gary Schleper, manager of the Indians.    

So, where does this Schleper baseball passion come from?  As shared earlier, Joe Jr. who lives and teaches (just retired from teaching this spring) in Delano volunteered every weekend during the 2008 state tournament, helped work a session at the Hamburg concession stand last summer with the New Prague-Shakopee committee, and will probably be volunteering during the 2018 tournament somewhere. Tom’s son, Dominick, returned to again play for the Indians this summer after wrapping up his successful senior season catching for the St. John’s Johnnies, a team his grandpa Joe played for many years ago. I blame it on the Schleper Stearns County Baseball DNA. It’s in their blood.  

As you enter Joe Schleper Stadium later this month to watch a state tournament game, take a look at the wall to your left and read what’s on the wall. Take your time.  It’s good. Very good. Then, before you enter into the parks patio/plaza area, take a look to the right and take a few moments and read the Joe Schleper bronze plaque mounted on the concession stand wall.  He earned it. If Joe was alive today, he would be 90 and very proud of his boys. Enjoy your stay at “The Joe.” There isn’t a bad seat in the house.  

All three state tournament ballparks are ready for the players and fans.  We are grateful to our many volunteers who have been working much “behind the scenes” over the past two plus years and will be working throughout the tournament. We couldn’t have done this without you.     

Now, let’s hope that the weather cooperates to allow baseball to be played Aug. 17-Sept. 3. Best of luck to all of the teams entered. We all want the teams and fans to have a great ballpark experience. Enjoy. Play Ball.  

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