Wichita Wind Surge owner and general manager Lou Schwechheimer has died after a battle with COVID-19, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. He was 62.

Schwechheimer spent 35 years with the Pawtucket Red Sox and was a key proponent of bringing Minor League Baseball back to Wichita.

He moved the New Orleans Baby Cakes from Louisiana to Kansas and held a contest in which it was decided the newly relocated club, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, would be renamed the Wind Surge.

The team was set to play its first games at the newly constructed Riverfront Stadium downtown this spring and summer before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the season.

“There are no words to express the loss of the entire Wind Surge family,” said Jared Forma, senior vice president, and general manager of the Wind Surge, said in a news release issued by the team. … Lou was truly one of a kind, someone who never met a stranger. He will be deeply missed by his family and many friends, which included an extended baseball family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lou’s wife and daughter at this difficult time.

“The Wind Surge team will work tirelessly to fulfill Lou’s dreams and visions for the great city of Wichita, a place he was proud to call home,” Forma said. “We will ensure his legacy lives forever at Riverfront Stadium.”

Schwechheimer was the face of the Wind Surge, a team that hadn’t yet fielded a roster because of COVID-19. He was the driving force behind the Riverfront Stadium project, the new ballpark that replaced Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and was ready for play by the time the season was to begin in April.

“It’s a huge loss,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said. “Lou wasn’t just a visionary. He also took action. In Wichita, those are the type of people we want here.”

Turning Wichita into a baseball city was a task that Schwechheimer greatly enjoyed, especially being able to do it alongside a long-time friend in Eric Wedge, the former Shocker national champion who returned to his alma mater this past season to help recharge the Wichita State baseball program. Both figures instantly sparked hope in their respective organizations.

“It’s magic time for us in Wichita,” Schwechheimer said in a February interview with Sports Daily on KFH radio. “Eric Wedge is a dear friend and with Wedgie turning that Wichita State program, ramping up the noise there, us ramping up the noise here on the Arkansas river, it’s a great time to be a baseball fan with Wichita State and the Wind Surge taking on a new era.”

Wedge has known Schwechheimer since 1991 when he was a catcher in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Before his venture in Wichita, Schwechheimer spent 37 years in Pawtucket, where Wedge played parts of four seasons (1991-92, 94-95). Wedge remained in professional baseball long after his playing days, first as a minor-league and major-league manager, then as a scout, where he said he would regularly cross paths with Schwechheimer.

When Wedge took over the job at WSU in 2019, he knew baseball in Wichita was on the rise because Schwechheimer was bringing his franchise to the city.

“People always asked me what I thought about them bringing the team to Wichita and I always said, ‘You’ve got the right guy because this guy is not going to fail,’” Wedge told the Eagle. “He was never afraid. He was a strong, strong man. Very affable. He was a guy that was never going to fail, let’s put it that way. He was going to come here and make this city better and he already made this city better. Lou was a true difference-maker and we’re all going to miss him.”

Schwechheimer was part of a group that purchased two minor-league teams, the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs and the Baby Cakes.

“Lou was a true visionary and innovative baseball executive,” the Miami Marlins said in a statement to the Eagle. “Above all, though, he was a true fan of the game. His inspiration and leadership will be missed by the entire baseball community.”

Read more here: https://www.kansas.com/sports/article244580937.html#storylink=cpy