Mike Pinto begins his thirteenth season as Miners manager in 2019. He joined the team for the inaugural 2007 season and has led the Miners to a 663-486 record over eleven seasons. The team’s .577 winning percentage ranks first in league history for teams that have lasted more than one season, and Pinto is the league’s all-time leader in wins by a manager, passing Frontier League Hall-of-Famer Fran Riordan on June 2nd, 2018 with his 626th victory. He has also guided the team to seven playoff appearances (2008, 2010-12, 2014-16) and four division titles (2010, 2014-16) as well as the 2012 Frontier League Championship.
In 2017, Southern Illinois became the seventh franchise in Frontier League history to win 600 games on July 26th when they defeated the Schaumburg Boomers at Rent One Park. They also became the fastest team in league history to that benchmark, surpassing the Washington Wild Things' mark by 92 games.
In 2016, Pinto skippered the Miners to a second-straight 63-33 regular season, with Southern Illinois becoming the first team in Frontier League history to amass 60 or more victories in three consecutive seasons. The Miners also laid claim to the West Division Championship, becoming the second team in league history to win three straight division titles. As owners of the West's best record from mid-June onward, the Miners as a team earned eight midseason all-star selections. Southern Illinois also had captain Steve Marino (3B), Craig Massey (DH) and Shane Kennedy (OF) all earn postseason all-star honors, the most the team has had in their history. In addition, Kennedy was named the league's Rookie of the Year, becoming the first Miner to win the award while also leading the circuit in batting average with team-record mark of .363.
In 2015, the Miners had another highly successful year, going 63-33 to finish with the second-best single-season record in franchise history. With a win over the Frontier Greys on August 16th, they also became the fastest team in league history to 500 wins, shattering the previous record (again held by the Washington Wild Things) by 51 games. The Miners also claimed their second consecutive division title and third 60+ win season in team history, winning the division in dramatic fashion on Marino’s walk-off homer against Traverse City on August 30th.
2014 was a historic season for both Pinto and the Miners. The team went 60-36, including a remarkable 33-15 in their last 48 games, to capture the East Division Championship. On June 5th, the Miners won their 400th game as a franchise in dramatic fashion, with Rick Teasley tossing the first no-hitter in franchise history against the Joliet Slammers. In addition, Pinto earned his 500th career managerial win on July 19th at Evansville and passed both Greg Tagert (on June 10th against the Frontier Greys) and John Massarelli (on August 23rd vs Florence) to move into second place on the Frontier League’s all-time managerial wins list.
In 2012, Pinto managed the Miners to their first ever Frontier League Championship. That year, the Miners entered the playoffs as a wild card entrant after finishing the regular season at 55-39. After sweeping the Eastern Division champion Traverse City Beach Bums in the first round of the playoffs, the Miners defeated the Florence Freedom three games to one in the championship series, clinching the title at Rent One Park in game four. He was named the 2012 Minor League Manager of the Year by the Pitch and Hit Club of Chicago, and earned his 400th career win as a minor league manager in the process, on August 4th against the Beach Bums.
In 2011, Pinto led the Miners to the playoffs as the team posted a 58-38 record. In the process of that playoff run, Pinto recorded his 300th win in his career as a manger.
In 2010, Pinto had his best year record-wise in Southern Illinois, leading the Miners to a 64-32 mark, the second highest single-season win total in Frontier League history. During that season, the Miners also put together a 20-game winning streak, the longest in league history.
In 2008, 2010 and 2016, as the owner of the best record in the West Division at the all-star break, Pinto managed the West Division team in the Frontier League All-Star Game along with the entire Miners coaching staff.
During the 2008 season, Pinto made history as he was able to work the first trade between a Major League Baseball organization and an independent team when he agreed to trade left-handed pitcher Clay Zavada to the Diamondbacks in exchange for first baseman Brad Miller. Although the historic trade was officially blocked by Major League Baseball, the teams eventually agreed upon a sign-and-release deal that yielded the same result. Zavada went on to be named the top independent league prospect to sign with an affiliated club by Baseball America and reached the major leagues in 2009, becoming the first former Miner make “The Show.”
In his twelve years in Southern Illinois, 52 Miners players have signed affiliated contracts with three making it to the Major Leagues. In addition, three former coaches have also had the opportunity to join an organization, while two have moved on to manage other independent league teams.
Before joining the Miners, Pinto spent two years as the manager of the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association. Prior to managing in Sioux Falls, Pinto spent three seasons (2002-2004) with the Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League in various coaching capacities, including bench coach, third base coach, pitching coach and player development coordinator. In 2003, with Pinto as pitching coach, the JackHammers finished third in the league with a staff ERA of 3.93. Six pitchers on that staff went on to major league organizations.
In addition to his professional managerial experience, Pinto also served as the head coach of Oakton (Ill.) Community College for three seasons where he posted a record of 119-45. In 2005, he was named Junior College Coach of the Year by the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago. At Oakton, Pinto set several school records, including most wins (41) and lowest team ERA (1.99) in a season while winning the Skyway Conference Tournament Championship and the Region IV Sectional Championship in 2003. In the 2004 season, Pinto coached his squad back to the Region IV championships with a second-straight sectional title.
Pinto has played center field on seven national championship senior league baseball teams, including back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 and again in 2009. He has played alongside former major leaguers Jose Cardenal of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jerry Hairston, formerly of the White Sox. In 1988, he also had the honor of being selected as a center fielder for the USA Senior Team in the Dominican Republic.
Along with his vast coaching and playing experiences, Pinto has also spent time as a scout for the Kansas City Royals. During the offseason he works as a motivational speaker utilized by numerous Fortune 500 companies.