11/01/2018 3:29 PM
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Evansville Otters are mourning the passing of former clubhouse manager Sam Hartsfield, who passed away on Oct. 29. He was 82.
Hartsfield was an important member of the Otters organization, serving as the Otters’ home clubhouse attendant for 15 years. He received the Frontier League’s Commissioner’s Award of Excellence in September 2016.
“Sam was much more than a clubbie,” Otters owner Bill Bussing said. “Sam was a quiet leader who interacted with hundreds of players during his time with the Otters. Sam treated all players with respect."
“Words can’t describe the loss to myself and the Otter organization with the passing of Sammy,” said Otters field manager Andy McCauley. “Sam meant everything to me. He was a mentor, a coach and a friend.”
McCauley recalled many nights early in his career with the Otters were spent talking baseball with Hartsfield long into the night following games. “More recently, he welcomed me to his home on off days to catch up and talk baseball. He helped me pass the off days while my family was at home.”
Hartsfield’s role with the Otters included washing uniforms and towels, setting up equipment for batting practice, preparing pre-and-post game meals and snacks, cleaning and organizing the clubhouse, assisting the coaching staff and players, and more throughout the baseball season. He spent a lot time at Bosse Field with most days lasting until 2 a.m. at the ballpark.
Benjamin Garrett, current clubhouse manager of the Otters, learned under Hartsfield’s mentorship when he started as a batboy in 2010.
“I was nervous when I first applied to be a batboy,” Garrett said. “He made the moment memorable and had a way of talking that made you think you had been friends with him for years.”
Garrett said Hartsfield was the reason he wanted to come back to work every day and never want to leave. “Sam would always joke that he hired me and that he tried to get rid of me because I would never leave.”
“Even though we met and worked at a baseball field, life to us went so much further than that,” Garrett said. “I credit much of the reason on why I am successful in my day to day life is because of him. He taught me how to be a respectful, hardworking, and a humble individual.”
Garrett added that having a close relationship with Hartsfield was the greatest honor of his life. “He was there for my school graduations, my engagement to my fiancé, and he was the first one I always called about anything.”
The Frontier League’s Clubhouse Manager of the Year Award is named after Sam Hartsfield, which Garrett received following the 2018 season.
"Sam was beloved by former employees and interns,” Bussing added. “He embodied the pride we take on teaching people who pass through our organization values that will assist them for the rest of their lives.”
“He helped me improve as a manager, and more importantly, as a person,” added McCauley. “Sam, a true baseball man, will be dearly missed.”
Many Otters employees viewed Hartsfield as a selfless mentor for hundreds of ballplayers, coaches, batboys, and Otters staff that passed through Bosse Field.
Hartsfield’s passion and experience in baseball dated back to time as a professional player for storied Negro League clubs, the Indianapolis Clowns and Kansas City Monarchs, and time with the San Francisco Giants organization.
Hartsfield was a resident of Evansville at the time of his passing and still attended Otters games on a regular basis, sitting near the foul pole down the right field corner. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch this past season on July 20 before the Otters faced the Windy City Thunderbolts.
He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Bettye, and their children.
The Otters family expresses their condolences to Bettye and the entire Hartsfield family.