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Sports Column | Todd Hefferman: Take a bow, Mike Pinto

Sports Column | Todd Hefferman: Take a bow, Mike Pinto

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You don't even need to know Mike Pinto to know how he got to 800 professional victories Thursday. Just walk around Rent One Park in Marion.

Ralph Santana. Ryan Bird. Joey Metropoulos. Their numbers are retired, honored with separate pictures in left field. Santana, Pinto's longtime assistant coach, was on his first roster here in 2007. Bird, a member of the Frontier League Hall of Fame, is tied with Rick Teasley for the Miners' wins mark (he went 28-10 between 2008-10) and struck out a franchise-record 308 batters. Metropoulos was the team's best slugger ever, hitting 70 home runs, driving 208 runners in and batting .305 for his career between 2007-10. He is also in the Frontier League Hall of Fame.

Pinto, the only manager in the Miners' 14-year history, recruited, signed and coached them all.

Reliever Jake McMurran, who appeared in 125 games between 2008-10, more than any other Miner. The 20-game winning streak in 2010. More than 50 players signed to Major League Baseball franchises, and three players reaching the big leagues.

"It's a testament to, I look at the wall, a ton of great players that played here and coaches that have put in an awful lot of time, from the very beginning," Pinto said after Thursday's doubleheader split with Equipe Quebec. "We've got a lot of dedicated coaches and staff. And along the way, I made some good decisions and brought some good players here. They win the ballgames."

Coaches get too much credit, but Pinto should take a bow. Coaching is hard everywhere, but it's incredibly difficult at the community college level and in minor league baseball. Independent baseball? Pinto is not only the manager, he is the general manager, and now the business manager of the Miners off the field. To find players, he has to connect with various sources around the country, at all levels of baseball, and convince them to come to Marion and play for a team that is not affiliated with the major leagues, or at least wasn't before this season.

Along with the merger with the Can-Am League, the Frontier League became a partner with MLB. I'm not exactly sure what that means yet, because major league scouts have always scouted the Miners after Clay Zavada, Brandon Cunniff and Tanner Roark made the big leagues, but it's good public relations if nothing else.

Pinto has stayed with it here for 14 years, through a worldwide pandemic, and helped the Miners win the 2012 Frontier League championship.

Take a bow, Mike.

SIU to host MVC golf championships: The MVC announced the sites for its league championships for the 2021-22 season Thursday. SIU is scheduled to host the men's and women's golf championships at Paducah (men) and St. Louis (women), with Missouri State co-hosting the women's golf championship. 

The Valley deferred picking a site for the 2022 baseball tournament until the fall. It's unusual for the league to pick the same school to host that event two years in a row, so even if SIU bid it is unlikely to win it again. The Salukis did a great job in their first hosting of the tournament since 1986. Let's just hope it doesn't go to Dallas Baptist, which has a great facility but is far away from the other seven programs in the league.

Notably, the MVC volleyball tournament goes back to Normal in 2022, the softball tournament is going to Springfield, Missouri (Missouri State), and the outdoor track meet will go to Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The indoor track and field championship is yet to be determined. For your calendars, mark March 3-6, 2022, for the men's basketball tournament in St. Louis and March 10-13 for the women's basketball tournament in Moline.

Illinois State wins all-sports trophy: Illinois State won the MVC All-Sports Trophy for this past school year, with an aggregate score of 7.842 points. The Redbirds won six team titles out of 16 sports the league sponsors, and captured the all-sports trophy for the second straight season (there was no award in 2019-20 because of the pandemic). Missouri State was second, with an aggregate score of 7.137, and Indiana State was third (6.266). 

TODD HEFFERMAN covers SIU Athletics for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com, 618-351-5087 or on Twitter at @THefferman. 

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