Saturday, March 25, 2023
Submitted Photo Tink and Judy Larson were married at home plate at a Mesa, Ariz. baseball field after Tink’s team won a senior baseball tournament.

Tink Larson starts new career in Waseca

 (Editor’s Note: Clint “Tink” Larson is a Kasson native well-known throughout southern Minnesota for his love of baseball. This is Part Two of his story where he had just sent in an application for a teacher job in Waseca.)

After college graduation, Tink signed up to attend a professional baseball umpire school in Florida. The next two years he was an umpire for minor league games in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The pay was low, and he was married with two children with one on the way, so he looked for other opportunities.

Sharon saw an ad in the paper for a history teaching position, plus head baseball and assistant basketball coach, in Waseca, and she told him about it. Tink always thought when driving through Waseca that it looked like a nice community, so he sent in his application for the job.

He hadn’t been home for three months until he had a three-game series in Waterloo, Iowa, so he drove home for the night. The next morning the Waseca superintendent called his home. They asked if he would like to come for an interview the next day with the Athletic Director and he was offered the position. If he hadn’t happened to be home on that day, his life would have been different.

With no cell phones in those days, and with Sharon working at the Mayo Clinic, he would have never received the call and he wouldn’t have ended up in Waseca. In 1967 he became the Waseca Physical Education/Health and Social Studies instructor for the next 21 years, and then 13 years as the athletic director. He was the head baseball coach for 35 years and assistant basketball coach for 30 years.

He retired from the athletic director position in 2000 but has continued as an assistant baseball coach for the past 20-plus years. The highlight of his career occurred in 1990 when Waseca won the state high school baseball championship. That team wasn’t supposed to be that good, not like some of his teams that had placed second and third in previous state tournaments.

His 1987 team may have been the best team Tink ever coached as all 10 players, including the DH, -were starters on college baseball teams. They beat K-M that year 1—0 in the district tournament against his nephew, Dane Head, who was on the mound for the KoMets.

From 1968-2011 he managed the VFW, Legion and town teams. During a 50-year period he coached four different teams each year during the spring/summer months. Tink may be the head coach with the most wins in Minnesota baseball history with over 2,500 wins but he says he may also hold the record for the most losses as a head coach with nearly 2,000! He says the only reason he might have more wins than anyone is probably because no one else has ever been a head coach of four teams for 50 years. He also can claim over 1,000 wins as an assistant baseball coach and over 1,000 as an assistant basketball coach.

as an assistant football coach

Tink also helped as an assistant varsity football coach for half a dozen years after he retired as AD. With tongue-in-cheek, he says his strength as an assistant football coach was to stand next to the head coach on the sideline and when the head coach would ask him if they should try a certain play, Tink would tell him to go for it. When the play was successful, he would pat him on the back and tell him “that was a great call coac!h” Tink says the greatest thrill he has had in coaching over the past 62 years, besides winning the State Championship, was the great relationships he built with so many players.

In 2009 he started as an assistant coach for the Minnesota State University, Mankato baseball team, and he continues to do this. He drives to practices five days a week starting in the fall, and six days a week starting in January and going until the season is finished in late May. He travels with the team when they take trips to southern states before their regular season starts and when the conference season begins. He continues to help the high school team when he can, which is most games and some practices, and he coaches with the town team in the summer. He coordinates the First District VFW League; he also coordinated the large post First District American Legion League until two years ago and is very active with the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association.

A baseball field
with his name

Tink lives across the street from the Waseca baseball field, named Tink Larson Field in 1994, and he has taken care of the field for decades. He was the only one that had ever dragged the infield and fixed the mound and home plate area for 45 years until he was gone for two weeks when MSU, Mankato went to the College DII World Series four times between 2010-2014.

He then had to teach the players how to take care of the field until he returned. The original community stadium was a WPA project built in 1939. Tink said it was really a classic stadium with seven rooms below the stadium, including two clubhouse rooms for the teams, complete with flat screen TV’s, cubicles for player’s uniforms, air conditioning, refrigerators, a grill, hi-fi stereos, carpeted floors, etc..

In April 2016, the stadium burned down under suspicious circumstances, and was a total loss. The following year, the community came together, raising $2 million, and built the new Tink Larson Field which opened in August 2018. The new stadium is handicapped accessible with stadium seating, better sight lines and a much larger concession stand. It is home for VFW, Legion, high school, and the Waseca Braves town team. Half of the area underneath the stadium is a clubhouse with showers and bathrooms for the teams, and the other half of the underneath area is a room to store mowers, tractors, drags and maintenance equipment, all of which Tink has supplied through the years.

His wife, Sharon, ran the concession stand for 44 years and he estimated that she did this for over 2,000 games! Sharon operated a daycare for 35 years. The Larson’s had been married for 50 years when Sharon unexpectedly passed away in 2014.

Tink and Sharon raised three children with seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Their son Mike has been a professional and international baseball scout for 33 years and has traveled to six continents and many countries to scout players. He is now a scout for the Minnesota Twins. Tink said he attends three or four Twins home games each year as that is about all he can fit into his busy schedule.

He has been named to 12 Hall of Fame organizations, 10 in Minnesota and two nationally, including Waseca and K-M High Schools, Mankato State University, and the American Baseball Coaches Association.

He continues to play baseball in senior league tournaments in Arizona and Florida and even gets into a local town team game occasionally. When I asked how long he plans to keep up with his current baseball schedule, he said, “for another 20 years and then I will take it one year at a time after that!”

Like a cat he must have 9 lives

He may have used up several of his nine lives as he had two auto accidents while he was in high school. In 2005 he was diagnosed with a fast-spreading cancer and one doctor said it was in an area in his throat region where he would not be able to operate, but he could have a second opinion in Rochester. That doctor said he would be able to get to the cancerous area, but he might have to cut open his neck quite a bit. Tink told the doctors that he needed to be ready to coach basketball in three weeks and they said that was probably not going to happen. The doctor operated, removed all of the cancer, and Tink was back coaching when the season started two weeks after surgery.

In 2017 he was riding a motorcycle and landed on his back on the highway at 60 mph and he spent two weeks in the hospital with numerous injuries, including a punctured lung, 14 broken ribs, a broken sternum and a number of other broken bones. Wearing a helmet saved his life as he had 20 staples put in his head, even with a helmet on. The doctors said his head would have looked like a smashed pumpkin at Halloween if hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

In 2018 he rolled his automobile, being thrown out, and he landed in the hospital for a month with both sides of his pelvis broken, an acetabular fracture of the hip, a collapsed hip with a replacement required, a broken elbow, a broken shoulder, a shattered scapula, half a dozen broken ribs, just to name a few of the injuries. The doctors told him he would never be able to catch or play baseball again, but he fooled them!

A second chance at happiness

Tink said he really wasn’t looking for romance after Sharon’s death as he had a great marriage for all those years, but he stopped by Diamond Jo Casino one night. There was a lady working at the cashier’s window who was filling in for a worker taking a break. Tink stopped by and cashed in a few chips, and later he did the same thing when shows back at the window again. He asked if she was married, but she told him her husband had died a couple of years ago (about the same time that Sharon had passed). He asked her for her email address, and later she thought “why did I do that”?

Tink emailed her every day for three weeks and never heard a response. She finally replied and said she had had a great life with a great husband, and she was not interested. He contacted her again, asking her to just meet for a sandwich and pop. Finally, after another three weeks, she finally agreed, but said she would drive and meet him there and they could have something to eat.

They ate at the Diamond Jo Steak House and Tink said Judy ordered an expensive meal as she must have thought she might as well make it worthwhile since she was going to spend this time meeting with him and it might be the last time she would ever see him. She also had arranged a co-worker to check with her every 15 minutes and if things were not going well, she would give the lady a sign which would mean that Judy would be provided an excuse by her friend that she had to leave.

Tink asked her if she was interested in baseball, and Judy said, “that was her least favorite sport and she had never seen a baseball game in her life.” Then he said, “well how about basketball and she said that was her second least favorite sport.” He asked about her family and she said, “she never had any children,” so at that point Tink was wondering what he should do as things weren’t looking good. Well, somehow, things must have worked out okay as they started seeing each other.

About a year and a half later he said his team was going to a senior baseball tournament in Phoenix and told Judy there are some interesting sightseeing places in the area if she was interested in going along. Judy agreed to go.

After a couple come-from-behind wins to start the tournament, Tink mentioned that if they won their next game they would draw a bye in the first round of the playoffs and they could go to Tombstone. And Judy, who had insisted she would never get married again, said “or we could go to Las Vegas and get married.” Tink found out one of his teammates was also a licensed minister and he married them. After winning the championship game at the Chicago Cubs training camp stadium in Mesa, Ariz., they were married at home plate. Tink said that within 30 minutes he got a ring for winning the tournament, and also a wedding ring in 2017.

Judy had never seen a baseball game before getting married to Tink, but needless to say, she has seen many games since and baseball fields. Tink likes to look at baseball fields in every town.

This past July 4th weekend they planned to visit Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. They headed to Duluth, turned west, traveled all the way across northern Minnesota, and went down into North Dakota. Because they had stopped to look at baseball fields in every town that had one, by the time they got to Hatton, N.D,, they realized they didn’t have time to make it to western North Dakota so they came back through a number of small towns in north-central Minnesota, looking at baseball fields in every town that had one. Teddy Roosevelt N.P. would have to wait.

They visited Kansas City a couple years ago, and walking through the historical area, Judy noticed the Negro League Baseball Museum and suggested they should visit (Tink had been there before but she did not know that.) Before entering, Judy asked him who he would know there since it seems like no matter where he goes, he knows someone. Tink said there wouldn’t be anyone there that he would know. Well, they had just entered the building, went through the turnstile and within two steps someone hollered, “Hey, Tink.”

While in Kansas City, he and Judy went to a Twins-Royals game and Judy was talking to a person who was telling her about the cemetery where Satchel Paige was buried. Obviously, that had to be seen. While visiting there the next day, the caretaker said that Buck O’Neil’s grave was just beyond a row of shrubs, so they had to check that one out, too. Those are the types of trips Judy now finds herself going on when Tink suggests a trip. Not bad for someone who had never seen a game until six years ago.

Tink said he feels he owes a lot to the communities of Kasson and Mantorville because when he was in high school his teachers gave him a lot of good advice, and the people in the community were also very helpful. For example, the local banker, Chuck Palmer, provided a ticket for him to attend the 1965 All-Star game at the Met Stadium, and he also provided him with a ticket to attend the 7th game of the 1965 World Series with the Twins vs. Dodgers. He watched Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax pitch the winning game, 2-0, for the Dodgers and that was a very big highlight for him.

He said he feels very lucky to have been a resident of two great communities and to have had two great wives while living a wonderful life!

Photo: Tink Larson in Florida in 2021.



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301 S. Mantorville Ave.
Plaza 57 • Suite 200
Kasson, MN 55944

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