For as much goofy fun as a Madison Mallards baseball game can be, with its bat-spin races and all-you-can-eat-and-drink party deck, the club still has the primary goal of winning. We were reminded of that this week when the Mallards decided to can manager C.J. Thieleke, who compiled a 230-178 record over six seasons.
The club finished 41-29 this season but missed postseason play for the second straight year - something it just couldn't accept.
"It's devastating," says team president Vern Stenman, whose team finished the year strong but still fell short. "When we look back on this in a month, we'll feel good that we had a chance. But it doesn't make it any easier right now."
The Mallards have set the standard for summer college baseball operations, consistently selling out games and improving the ballpark experience for fans every year. Those efforts will take a big step forward next year with a new seating configuration at Warner Park.
"Coming into 2010, if you could have gotten me to be honest with you, I would have told you that 2011 is the year we're excited about," says Stenman. He calls the construction of the Triple Play Club section with its brick wall faade and Wrigley Field seats "the first stage of the renovation. It's going to feel more like that around the park next season."
By letting Thieleke go, Stenman also proved that the club is as committed to competing for titles as it is to creating a unique experience for Madison baseball fans.