Edina Dads, Unite

How neighborhood men created community.

Consummate baseball fan and actor Bill Murray was at a St. Paul Saints game when he noticed a bunch of guys dressed in matching T-shirts and caps.

Sensing a kinship, he went over and asked, “Who are you guys?”

Jeff Carlson, who started Edina’s Morningside Athletic Club, explained, “It’s like a middle-aged men’s fraternity.” Murray liked the sound of that. He left the game that day with a cap of his own.

Thus, the members of the Morningside Athletic Club found themselves in league with Bill Murray—something resident Ehren Seim couldn’t have anticipated when he, his wife and kids moved to Edina four years ago.

Soon, Seim’s neighbors brought up the Morningside Athletic Club. The group’s more colloquial epithet, “the MAC,” gives a better idea of its scope. The MAC is less an athletic club than a pretense for any type of male bonding: from basketball tournaments to pig roasts, from chili bowls to community-service leaf raking with their kids. Not long ago, Seim had 25 MAC dads in his garage while a local bike manufacturer demonstrated how to make a bike from scratch. Last month, he organized the annual golf scramble and its after-party.

“In the first six months, I met and knew more people through the MAC than I did in my entire seven years of living” in a northern suburb, Seim says.

Carlson started the dad group almost 15 years ago. He realized that Morningside presented a common suburban problem: He wasn’t meeting anybody.

The local wives would get together and play bunco, but the husbands would merely “see one another walking the dog down the street and give the obligatory, ‘Hello, how ya doin’?’ ” Nothing more.

Carlson contacted the wives on the bunco email list, asking them to tell their husbands to get down to Weber Park at 8 a.m. on Saturdays for touch football. Six men showed up. They started their own email list. Carlson made T-shirts.

Soon, the free-entry group was putting on 20-versus-20 people softball games. Today, it enlists local real estate agents and liquor stores as sponsors. Jennifer Samuel, wife of one of the members, credits the group for a much-needed male network for bonding. Plus, she says, the MAC’s annual Man of the Year (MOTY) award, which honors men who help the neighborhood, models community to their kids.

This year, Scott Smith gets the MOTY trophy for spearheading events. “I’m close to 60 years old and I’m still playing softball, still playing hockey,” Smith says.

“With team sports, you really get to know people on a better level,” Carlson says. Bearing that in mind, the MAC keeps its doors open with the motto: No skill required.