MICHIGAN CITY — After his minor league pitching days were over, there was no other place Carl Swenson wanted to be than a baseball field, whether it was playing at the semi-pro level, umpiring or coaching.
He was also a father figure and friend, of sorts, to many of his players feeding off his straight talking yet open door, lovable approach.
The witty Swenson, known for advising his players to "Keep Loose", could be in second heaven.
The diamond at the southwest corner of Patriot Park, a premiere 120-acre venue for tournaments, will be called "Carl Swenson Field" after last month's declaration by the Michigan City Park Board. The dedication ceremony will take place 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Swenson was 79 when he died from leukemia in January of 2018.
His dying wish was to be formally remembered on a day when the weather outside was perfect for baseball.
Five months later after his death, hot dogs, beer and Cracker Jack were served to about 150 friends and former players at his celebration of life service at Orak Shrine, his daughter, Pam Clarkson, said.
Clarkson chuckled that her late mother used to explain that Swenson loved his work and baseball then her.
“She allowed baseball to come first because she knew the passion he had for it,’’ Clarkson said.
Swenson grew up poor as an only child in a tough neighborhood in the Brooklyn section of New York City.
His way out came from a contract offer Swenson earned during a tryout by the Giants organization about the time his hometown team decided to relocate to San Francisco.
He spent the 1958 at Class D in Artesia, New Mexico.
The following season, he played for the Whitecaps, the parent club’s other Class D squad in Michigan City where he met his wife, Lottie.
One of his teammates in Michigan City was Juan Marichal, who went on to a Hall of Fame career as a pitcher with the Giants.
Swenson moved up to Class C for one more season in Idaho before returning to Michigan City and starting a family.
Clarkson said her father stayed active in the game, though, as owner and pitcher of the semi-pro Michigan City Saints and Michigan City Sinners.
His several years at the semi-pro level took him to places like Indiana State Prison for games against the inmates, according to newspaper clippings Swenson kept about his career.
His decades of coaching included stops at the former Elston High School, Michigan City High School and various local youth leagues where he also umpired.
In 2005, he was pitching coach at New Buffalo High School when the team won the Michigan Class D state championship.
Clarkson said her father never took off the ring he earned that year.
He also ran his own pitching clinic for many years.
Eric Mertl, who played for Swenson at Elston from 1987-90, said Swenson made players feel like he was one of them but he could also be "very direct” in an old school way to get a point across.
He also stressed hard work and loved telling often funny stories about on and off the field happenings during his playing days.
Mertl said he and many of his teammates were so drawn by Swenson they showed up at his house about every other weekend "in car loads sometimes’’ to watch a baseball game or a movie and shoot pool or darts.
He said Swenson always made them feel welcome.
"He really treated us like family and I think we all treated him the same say," Mertl said.
Mertl, who now lives outside Indianapolis, went on to play baseball and coach at the college level.
Swenson was also in the wine and spirits industry for more than 50 years before retiring in 2015.
He also previously served on the city council and school board.
Clarkson said her father always kept Tootsie Rolls for handing out to business clients and whoever else he ran into along the way.
He also handed Tootsie Rolls to nurses while battling cancer and threw the candy out the window of his hospital room to people down below.
"He was an absolute character people just loved being around," Clarkson said.