Late Wind Surge owner honored, remembered in team’s home opener
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Opening Day at Riverfront Stadium was a dream of one man in particular who is recognized as the driving force for bringing professional baseball back to Wichita. Late owner Lou Schwechheimer didn’t live to see the Wind Surge take the field in their new stadium, but his presence with the team carries on through tributes and memories.
Schwechheimer, who died last July, expressed that his vision for Wichita’s new ballpark that included a team that will form a strong bond with its community and stick around for decades. The formation of the Wind Surge was decades in the making.
To trace the roots to the effort, you’d have to go back to Schwechheimer’s beginning in Minor League Baseball, working with the Pawtucket (Rhode Island) Sox. He worked with the Boston Red Sox affiliate for 37 years. After leaving the Boston organization, Schwechheimer purchased two Minor League teams, the New Orleans Zephyrs, later known as “The Baby Cakes,” and the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The team from New Orleans moved to Wichita, becoming the Wind Surge which made its debut Tuesday night.
Two people who had been with Schwechheimer, Wind Surge Genearal Manager Jared Forma and team broadcaster Tim Grubbs said, as they look ahead to the young season carrying on, they always remember lessons Schwechheimer taught them about baseball and life.
A unique fan, known as “The Marlins Man” for wearing Florida Marlins gear and attending games across the country, was in Wichita for Tuesday’s opener. “Marlins Man” man had the chance to meet Schwechheimer when the Wind Surge were New Orleans Club under a different name and affiliated with the Marlins.
“I got to spend a lot of time with him, but Wichita didn’t’,” he said. “I remember asking (Schwechheimer), ‘why did you pick here?’”He tole me he had a couple of offers from places he didn’t like, but he spent a few weeks here and said it felt like home.”
Forma said the club’s mission is “to fulfill (Schwechheimer’s) dream and vision in everything (it does), the standards (it sets), the great initiatives (it takes) on and how (the organization treats) people every day.”
“As charismatic as he (was) and as much as he wanted to be out walking the concourse, meeting each and every person that comes in the ballpark, I think he would be just as excited to see his dream come true,” Grubbs said.
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