'The Baseball Whisperer' Uncovers a Hidden Gem of Minor League Baseball

Jul 20, 2016

Despite their losing record, the Milwaukee Brewers represent the pinnacle of the baseball world in Wisconsin. But fans don't necessarily need to go to Miller Park to watch high quality baseball. There are two minor league teams that call the state home, the Beloit Snappers and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Appleton. There are also eight members of the Northwoods League scattered throughout Wisconsin, including teams in Mequon and Kenosha.

The Northwoods League is one of a growing number of summer leagues that primarily draw from college baseball teams around the country. And while players from some of the Northwoods League teams have gone on to star in the majors, few summer teams can beat the track record of the Clarinda A's, an amateur team that plays in the small town of Clarinda, Iowa.

Legendary coach Merl Eberly nurtured the talents of stars such as Ozzie Smith and Andrew Cashner; and some who went on to play for the Brewers, including pitcher Cal Eldred.

The story of the team and its late coach are the subject of a new book by journalist Michael Tackett, called The Baseball Whisperer: A Small-Town Coach Who Shaped Big League Dreams.

"The book tells the story of the more than 36 players who went on to Major League Baseball," says Tackett. "More than 300 signed professional contracts and almost all of them would say that it was their time in Clarinda, where they were focusing intensely on baseball, that really brought out their talent."