Everyday Hero: Michael Minner
CHARLESTON, MO (KFVS) - Art takes many forms. Vincent Van Gogh left his mark in the brush strokes of Starry Night. Michael Minner’s masterpiece came to life on a bright sunny day - through not strokes but strikes.
“Whenever you’re starting something -- you always envision -- this is what I want to happen. And you never know if it’s going to get to that point,” said Minner.
Turns out, that sentiment holds as true for a baseball as it does a work of art. As an art teacher at Charleston High School, Minner knows a thing or two about creating something from nothing. Fifteen years ago, his blank canvas was an old sandlot at Charleston’s Hillhouse Park.
Minner built the Fighting Squirrels Babe Ruth Youth Baseball program from the ground up in a town not exactly known for sluggers.
“We had a high school baseball team – but that was it,” said Cade Coon, a parent and friend of Minner’s. “Nobody came here to play baseball. Nobody thought of playing baseball in Charleston by any means.”
In the years since, Coach Minner expanded the Fighting Squirrels team from beyond Charleston city limits – recruiting players first, other towns in Mississippi County, then from elsewhere in southeast Missouri.
“They come from all over in the summer,” Minner said. “We’ve had kids as far as Greenville and Poplar Bluff. We currently have a kid from Perryville, so that’s a pretty good haul.”
What brings Fighting Squirrel hopefuls to Charleston isn’t the field at Hillhouse Park, nice as it is these days. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you – it’s all coach Minner.
“I mean the kids- they just flock to Minner,” said Fighting Squirrels Assistant Coach Matt Jackson. “I mean they want to play for someone like him.”
Minner has a hard-nosed approach to coaching, which he says is to give the kids a thick skin. And he says there’s a good reason for that.
“Well, I was born a little different,” Minner said.
Minner is not as tall as most coaches, but you’ll see storming the field to argue a call with an umpire, and his right arm ends at what would be the elbow to most people. But he’s never let these differences define him. Nor has he let them hold him back in the slightest.
“My dad and I spent lots of time at the park learning how to throw and catch with the same hand and do lots of things that most kids don’t have to worry about,” Minner said.
That dedication paid off. Minner earned his position on the mound – pitching for his high school and college baseball teams.
“Those guys were quick to treat me like an equal,” said Minner. “If I didn’t make the play – it wasn’t because I had one arm, it was because I didn’t make the play.”
Hard work, determination, no excuses: these are the lessons Minner passes on to his Fighting Squirrels.
“He turns these kids into men,” said Jackson.
“To see what he’s done in his life is very good motivation for these kids to get out there and put the work in,” said Brent Peters, a parent and former coach.
All the work Minner put in to sculpting a group of boys into a team paid off on a distant diamond in Jamestown, New York, when the Fighting Squirrels snatched the 2018 Babe Ruth World Series title.
“You have to lose in the trenches,” said Minner. “You have to get knocked down, and you have to get back up. Those are the things we did in our early stages and to see it all come together – it was a special moment.”
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We’ll profile an Everyday Hero each month on Heartland News.
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