MICHIGAN CITY — Baseball brought Carl Swenson from Brooklyn to Michigan City when he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 1958.
Over 60 years later, a life dedicated to the betterment of the game in the city by the lake was honored when the M.C. Parks and Recreation Department named the southwest field at Patriot Park after Swenson.
“He changed 100s of lives,” Swenson’s son, Matt, said after Tuesday’s ceremony. “He’d really appreciate it. He’d say it was very nice, but unnecessary. He would have been humbled.”
Humbled to the point, daughter, Pam Clarkson, noted, that her dad wouldn’t have liked all the fuss being made over him.
“The proclamation says it all,” Clarkson said. “He was quite a character, everybody loved him. Dad would be very honored that his legacy will live on with Michigan City baseball as long as the field exists, which I hope will be forever. Someday, a long time from now, I can come out here (with my grand kids) and say, ‘That was your great grandfather, my father.’”
Family, friends and former players gathered for the ceremony as Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz read the proclamation, a litany of contributions he made to the community, baseball-related and otherwise, and an infectious personality that touched so many.
Swenson served on the Michigan City Common Council, the Michigan City Area Schools Board of Trustees, and was President of the local Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). A recipient of an Indiana General Assembly House Resolution memorializing him, Swenson played for the Michigan City White Caps minor league team with the likes of Juan Marichal, and was later the owner/manager of the Michigan City Saints baseball team for players college age and up. He served as pitching coach at both Elston and M.C. high schools and coached numerous Parks League Junior and Senior Division teams, all done in a volunteer capacity.
“I first remember him playing with the Whitecaps, then he coached with Donnie (Thomas) at Elston when I was at Rogers,” Park Board member Phil Freese said. “I learned a lot from him, being a catcher, and as a coach. We spent a lot of years together. I always thought he worked so well with the kids. He wanted to win, but he always put the kids first. He took his time with them. He was soft-spoken. He wasn’t a yeller or screamer. He always had time if you wanted to talk baseball. I can’t think of a better way to honor Carl Swenson.”
Kienitz called Swenson “a beautiful, wonderful person who has done so much for the community, on and off the field... who tried to make everywhere he was at a better place.”
“Carl, I know you’re looking down, congratulations on a great career,” Kienitz said. “I’m just happy to be a part of this.”
Brian Wisser pitched for Swenson at Elston and recalled his approach with players.
“Just his knowledge,” Wisser said. “He came across positive, even when he was correcting you. He was always reinforcing what he told you to do. He’d make simple adjustments. I was hitting line drives and he told me I needed to swing a heavier bat. I hit a home run in four straight games.”
Swenson’s personal touch is what set him apart.
“The boys lived at the house,” Clarkson said. “He was mentoring not just on the field, but off as well.”