A Fan’s Guide Farewell

I’m no longer maintaining MWLguide.com. I stopped working on the site in March, when my project-driven job got out of hand, but I made the end official last week.

A Fan’s Guide to the Midwest League was born early in 1996 late in 1995 as a Lansing Lugnuts weblog. The Luggies were new to Lansing, and I was hearing and reading nonsensical things about how the team and the Midwest League operated. My object was education; I wanted to explain what was going on. I’d been following minor league baseball in The Sporting News since the early 1960s and in Baseball America for over a decade, so I had a firm basic understanding of the ground rules. I’d been watching Midwest League games since the South Bend expansion, and had a feel for the realities of low-minor-league baseball. An incidental, and intended, side effect of the blogging project was that I learned to code text in HTML, something that seemed worth mastering.

Around mid-season I knew I wouldn’t continue the blog far past the end of the season; indeed, I’d decided to move my fan loyalties back to Battle Creek’s team. I mentioned this to Joanne Gerstner, who was covering the Lugnuts for the Lansing State Journal; she asked what I’d do instead. I said I’d probably build something about Midwest League history. Off such offhand responses, sometimes, are commitments made. I spent the winter laying the groundwork for the refocused MWL website.

In the mid-nineties all web designers were cowboys. There were no standards, and few examples to follow. I looked around and found no-one–literally, no-one–building a website anything like the one I had in mind. So I laid out a basic framework, and started assembling pages to fit the design. For a while that construction was pretty much catch-as-can, because I didn’t want to build a bunch of contentless shell pages. But an early project was to define a basic year/team/affiliate page and fill in the necessary information to meet a minimum spec. While I’m still not entirely satisfied with that solution, it filled a real need; you can find a fairly complete history for the league within the website.

Circumstance, not intention, forced an emphasis on the current season. When I started building the website, there was no unified coverage of Midwest League baseball on the web. In fact, there was little coverage of individual teams, as relatively few local newspapers had any serious web presence before, roughly, 1999. Baseball America and Minor League Baseball took years of experimentation to figure out how to do what needed done. While I enjoyed writing scouting reports on the teams, they were an enormous drain on my time. Their quality reflects that.

The site’s basic structure has worn well. I’ve worked backwards through League history, with some side projects to cover topics which don’t fit well in what is essentially a chronological structure. There are many gaps I’d like to fill, but I’m not going to get to those.

Emails often made my day. I heard from fans, from past and present players, from team radio voices, from former and would-be player girlfriends, from executives, from prospective team owners, from newspaper reporters. Over the years I received thousands of notes on a vast array of topics. A Danville fan told me about the joy of watching Butch McCord in his prime. One writer told about his mother boarding black players in Decatur. Another filled me in on a former player’s troubled life after baseball. A batboy told about his continuing friendships with players who’d shared the Dubuque dugout. Pat Neshek wrote me a delightful note after his MWL summer. Bob Sprout thanked me for writing up his remarkable season, as did Bob Lawrence for his; both were reminded of lost friends. The best email I ever received was from a kind lady in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who told me in detail how her family became unintentional hosts to a gentle giant named Juan Salazar, and fell in love.

A few final thank yous, for valued support, to Jon Mielke, Rich Hanson, Paul DuBois, Al Seeger, Jeff Yeo, and David Malamut, all of whom I’ve thanked before. Tim Rask, Brad Seward, Howie Magner, and Scott Sailor deserve special mention. A small host of others have encouraged me over the years. Couldn’t have done this without your help.

All that to say: Goodbye. It’s been fun. It’s time I did something else. See you at the ballyard.

Edit 3/10/2013: I located my archived copy of the original website the other day and discovered I’d written–and posted–two or three pages I’d forgotten. My first post turned out to be dated October 26, 1995.

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5 Responses to A Fan’s Guide Farewell

  1. Jeff says:

    And thank you for a wonderful website.

  2. Der-K says:

    I’ve been checking out your site off and on for, gosh, nearly the entirety of its existence. Anyway, it’ll be missed – thanks for all the great work!

  3. Brad Seward says:

    Sorry to see you go. MWLguide.com became quite the resource. Your work is very much appreciated. Thanks for your help over the years.

  4. joel says:

    Thanks, all. Much appreciated.

  5. John Seward says:

    Thanks, Joel, for the many years of the ‘guide’. It was invaluable when I was doing research for my long dead ‘Battle Creek Baseball’ site back around 2004-2007. And thanks for the years at COB, shooting pictures, chatting, and generally hanging out with the gang behind home plate.

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