| March 6, 2021
Last summer, the Lincoln Potters were faced with a choice — shelve the upcoming season and protect the organization’s finances, or play on, taking advantage of their unique ability to conduct games during the pandemic and giving their athletes a chance to get back on the field after months of being stuck at home.
They chose the latter.
“We felt obligated to the players,” General Manager Matt Lundgren said. “We thought that if we could make it happen somehow that we would be doing a tremendous service to them to giving them an opportunity to play after them having their college seasons cut short.”
The Potters’ decision to continue with their season is indicative of the players-first mindset they have prioritized since their founding four years ago.
Although establishing a winning culture in the competitive CCL is no easy feat, the team’s dedication to its athletes and the Lincoln community enabled it to become a force in the Northern division.
The Potters trace their roots back to the 1920s, when ceramics company Gladding, McBean started a baseball team and sponsored it. The team adopted the Potters moniker in the 1940s, playing in the Placer Nevada League for several seasons. However, the Potters decided to cease operations in the 1960s, leaving McBean Field without a summer club for years.
In 2015, the City of Lincoln, Rocklin-based William Jessup University and Placer Valley Tourism agreed to renovate the field, making it possible for another team to take the former franchise's place. The Great West League answered the call and brought the Potters on as its newest member.
When Lundgren was offered the chance to build the Lincoln franchise from the ground up in November 2016, he felt he could not pass up the opportunity.
Lundgren had spent the first years of his baseball career working for esteemed organizations already well entrenched within their markets, including the Cincinnati Reds and Tucson Padres. After serving as GM for an established organization in the Marysville Gold Sox, Lundgren wanted a change and a challenge.
It didn’t take long for Lundgren’s wish to be granted either — “I knew that it was going to be a lot of work, but it was way more work than I think I could have ever anticipated,” Lundgren said.
Upon assuming the GM role, Lundgren was immediately tasked with putting together a team that was set to take the field for Opening Day just six months later.
While Lundgren and the Potters’ front office got the team up and running for its first day of existence, the team still had more hurdles to clear when it came to becoming a fully fledged operation.
Perhaps no story better exemplifies the early days of the Potters franchise than the time a baseball flew out of the ballpark and into a nearby resident’s home, leading the city to install a 50-foot net surrounding the field.
“Naturally, the reason they built the net is a lady was using the restroom in her house and a ball went right through the window and landed on her lap, so that was the final straw,” Lundgren said with a chuckle.
In spite of the growing pains associated with starting an entire baseball franchise from scratch, Lundgren still appreciates the opportunities growing the Potters franchise provided him.
“It was awesome and I learned a lot through that,” Lundgren said.
Within their first few seasons of competition, the Potters established themselves in the Sacramento area and quickly drew the attention of baseball minds across the state.
Former CCL Commissioner Pat Burns was one of the first few individuals to take notice of the Potters, and he offered the team a chance to take part in the league’s affiliate program. After experiencing what the CCL had to offer, Lundgren decided to take the Lincoln organization to the next level and officially join the league the following season.
“We thought the CCL was the best fit for us,” Lundgren said. “We thought we could not only with the CCL help grow our brand, we thought we had a lot to offer to the CCL and help grow the CCL brand to establish a North conference with the [Healdsburg Prune Packers].”
Being part of the CCL is one major reason Lincoln has been able to attract top-level talent, Lundgren said, but he also credits the organization’s culture and existing relationships with college coaches for its success.
“We don’t let the baseball side of things fall short,” Lundgren said. “We take a lot of pride in player development, our relationships with college coaches around the country and trying to get as many players to the next level as possible.”
The Potters consider their fanbase one of their strongest assets, allowing them to grow in an already saturated baseball market.
“We're fortunate to be in a community that welcomed us with open arms from the beginning, so that was the easy part, getting the community on board to support us,” Lundgren said.
As the Potters organization grew, so did its presence and importance within the Lincoln community.
One key Potters tradition is participating in Lincoln’s annual Fourth of July and Christmas parades, which draw crowds of 25,000 spectators. The Fourth of July event is a particularly memorable one for the team, as players from across the country get to experience a slice of Placer County tradition.
The Potters also partner with local Little League teams and schools, assisting them with fundraisers and offering them the opportunity to attend games.
The organization’s efforts to reach young baseball fans in Lincoln has made an impact. Some fans even prefer Potters games to San Francisco Giants games at the nearby Oracle Park, according to Lundgren.
“[Attending Potters games] is a completely different experience,” Lundgren said. “I think that that becomes more memorable for the younger generation, the baseball players and the softball players, that they get that experience.”
The Potters are already a must-see attraction for players and fans alike just four years after their founding, but Lundgren and other members of the organization are not done seeking out opportunities for growth.
One major milestone in the Potters’ future is hosting the CCL’s inaugural State Championship, which is scheduled for August. The Potters also hope to continue improving on their yearly results, continuing to make the playoffs each year and strive for better and better postseason results.
“That's something that we want to keep building on, and obviously we want to win a championship,” Lundgren said. “We want to win the CCL North and we want to win the CCL State Tournament, as often as we can.”
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