Anyone who has witnessed a baseball game at Kretz Brothers Park in Antigo no doubt has taken note of the immaculate playing field.
It’s something that is too often taken for granted, but when the Red Robins, Legion Post #3 Typhoon or Antigo Babe Ruth teams host games, they do so on one of the finest fields in the area. One that will be on display when Antigo hosts the American Legion Class AA State Tournament in July.
But there is a lot that goes into getting a ball field ready to play, especially one as outstanding as Kretz.
When the Antigo Dugout Club tabbed Tom Kubeny to be architect of Kretz years ago, it was an easy decision.
And with that, we go behind the scenes with Kubeny, a man whose family ties run deep in Antigo baseball, from his father Bill, a former Red Robin varsity coach himself and the longtime public address voice of the park, to his brothers and now his own son, Will, a senior on the Robins’ current roster.
Kubeny’s value to the young people of the community doesn’t end with baseball however, as he is quite talented in his other endeavor, that of the sport of bowling.
When not racking up high scores in Antigo league play, he has served as a youth coach with the Antigo Bowling Club in various capacities, including the varsity level, where he helped lead the boys team to a high school state championship just three seasons ago.
Outside of working hard at Kretz or the bowling lanes, Kubeny is at his day job, where he works for the city of Antigo Water Department.
It’s a busy life, especially during baseball season, but you can bet he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What is your role at Kretz Park and how long have you been doing it?
My role is to provide the kids the safest and best looking field possible. In order to do that it takes a lot of money, field products, equipment and good help. Fortunately, I have all of that and I have been doing it for almost nine years. Just to get the field ready for a game it takes myself and my helpers, Seb Noskowiak, Alec and Preston Knapkavage and Ben Robrecht three hours. The field first gets watered down til saturated. Then dragged with a nail drag, dragged again with a coco mat, before the pitcher’s mound and home plate areas get repacked with special bagged clay and leveled. Then the batter’s boxes are lined followed by the baselines. Next, the foul lines are painted along with the coaches’ boxes. At this point, the warning track is hand-dragged and dugouts cleaned. Finally, the bullpen mounds repacked and leveled. Then we are ready for a ball game. Non-game days we are edging the grass lines, which in itself is a never-ending task, mowing the infield and batting cage maintenance. This could not take place without several hard-working individuals. The park will host over 100 games this year.
What do you like best about working at Kretz?
Working with the kids that really take pride in what they do and then seeing the crowds that the park attracts. We feel it is one of the finest fields in the state, which helped us land the Legion State Tournament this year.
What is something that goes into field preparation that most people may not realize?
The amount of water it takes. Clay and field mix are the backbone of the field and if the clay dries out it’s nearly impossible to get a solid and flat field. Almost all Major League teams after batting practice and right before game time water the field.
Your family has a long history with Antigo baseball. What does it mean to you?
I can remember like it was yesterday. The Journal’s own sports writer, Vern Cahak, calling me to inform me that I was chosen to play for the Credit Union Little League team. I went flying across the room and jumped into my father’s arms with excitement. He also played for the men’s Credit Union team. My three younger siblings also went on to play for the Credit Union. Baseball was everything back then, especially the neighborhood competition, which I firmly believe made us better. Also didn’t hurt having AAA New York Yankee Al Peterson as Little League coach and my father as the varsity head coach. It brings back the fire again watching Will run out onto that field for the Robins and Typhoon. It’s a very special moment for our entire family.
Talk about your involvement with the Antigo Bowling Club.
I been involved with the club for the past 10 years. All of them as the boys middle school coach and the past three as varsity coach. This is an extremely long season, beginning in September and going through May. We are privately funded. Because we are a club, there is no monetary support from the school. We try to keep the cost as low as possible to get every kid a chance to participate. We start out teaching basic skills all the way up to the advanced. We are blessed to have over 100 years of coaching experience in gentlemen that are no strangers to the sports page in Brian Mattmiller, Trevor McCarthy, Dave Steger Jr. and Toby Dieck to name a few.
Why should parents get their kids involved with the Bowling Club?
It’s a very safe environment. They learn what it takes to be a team player, but at an individual level. There is no defense in the game, there is no certain body type or mental skill that puts anyone at an advantage. Everyone can bowl, there are several different level to compete in and you get to meet a lot of new people in a sport you can compete in for the rest of your life.
What do you like best about working with young people?
Seeing them light up when they get better is extremely satisfying. I have been around the program long enough to of had kids go through and now they are in our adult league competing against me. They have even come back to help coach. I do enjoy getting to know the kids outside of the sport, also.
What is your favorite TV show?
I love “Finding Bigfoot.”
What was your first car?
A 1972 orange Volkswagen Beetle Bug. It couldn’t do 40 mph. It was awesome trying to keep with traffic on the German Autobahn while in the service.