Festina native Art Huinker is pictured with his Loras coach. Huinker went 19-0 during his college career. (Photo submitted)
Festina native Art Huinker is pictured with his Loras coach. Huinker went 19-0 during his college career. (Photo submitted)

There's no place like home for Festina native Art Huinker.

Home is with his childhood sweetheart, Anna Mae (Thuente).

Without the love and support of Ann, Huinker said he never would have accomplished one of his life goals: getting the opportunity to pitch for a Major League baseball organization.

Whether traveling several hours from home to take the mound for a town-league tournament, uprooting to Georgia to pitch in the St. Louis Cardinal system or making the decision to hang up his glove and cleats, Huinker credits his wife of 57 years with making it all possible.

Most recently, Huinker can thank Ann for helping him complete the latest chapter in his storied life - writing a scrapbook-style autobiography called Small Man, Big Heart, covering his career in baseball.



Small town roots

Baseball runs through Huinker's blood.

The youngest of five, Huinker grew up with a ball glove on his hand. His father, Leo Huinker, was a catcher for the Festina town team and later became an umpire.

Leo instilled that passion in all his children, especially Art. Born in 1935, Huinker said the family lived for the game.

"Being the youngest of three boys and two girls, the older siblings frequently enlightened me on what life was like back then, including how it related to why baseball was so important to the Huinker family," Art wrote.

Growing up on an 80-acre farm located north and a little east of Festina, approximately 3.5 miles from Calmar, four from Festina and five from Ossian, Huinker said the family often spent afternoons tossing the ball around.