Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 27, 2006, Herald Journal

Baseball right around the corner

By Aaron Schultz

Players for major league teams have already reported to spring training in Florida and Arizona.

High school baseball practice is less than a month away from starting.

And then, you have amateur baseball, with the season getting going for a number of teams in the middle of April.

Yep, the Dassel-Cokato Saints, the Howard Lake Orphans, the Winsted Wildcats, the New Germany Dutchmen, the Mayer Blazers, and the Watertown Red Devils will all, before we know it, be taking the diamond for yet another season of exciting baseball action.

Why, you might ask, did I mention all of those teams?

Well, those are the six teams that I will be covering this season for the paper, along with a bunch of help, of course.

See, besides playing for the Wildcats, Neil Schlagel, along with myself, will be managing Winsted this season.

In addition to that, I also put together the Crow River Review, update the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Association’s web site, and cover the North Star League.

While many sports editors get to relax a little through the summer, I get busier.

But it is a blast covering all these different teams, while at the same time playing, as the Wildcats compete against each and every one of the teams that I mentioned.

My connection with amateur baseball goes back a long way, especially considering I am just 29 years old.

I started playing for the Wildcats when I was 16, and have been with them ever since, through a lot of bad, but even more good moments.

As far as covering amateur baseball, I got my start the summer of 2000, working at the Enterprise Dispatch.

I started at the ED right out of Hamline University, and jumped right in to covering the Saints.

That year, the Saints made it to the Class B state tournament, which has been a pretty regular occurrence.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, going down to Fairfax to watch the Saints play, and taking pictures. It was awesome, I just loved it.

Although I did have to miss the state modified softball tournament to cover the Saints, it was worth it, and it started my slow slide out of softball.

After a year with the Enterprise Dispatch, I moved on to the McLeod County Chronicle in Glencoe, and got to cover the Plato Blue Jays and the Glencoe Brewers.

That year, I had the privilege to cover Plato in the Class C state tournament. Two for two.

Just six months into my days in Glencoe, I moved on again, this time to my current position as the sports editor for the Herald Journal.

Then, I just covered the Winsted Wildcats and the Howard Lake Orphans.

But, in just six years, that has expanded to the point where this year, I will be covering all the prior teams that I have mentioned, except the Brewers and Blue Jays.

Over these past five years, I have been to each and every state tournament – either playing in it, covering it, or just watching it. Sometimes, all three.

Then, this past summer, I got to experience the tournament right in my backyard – since the tournament was played in Dassel and Hutchinson.

The Saints did an outstanding job of hosting their half of the tournament, as did Hutchinson.

Despite some rough weather over the final weekend, Dassel-Cokato pulled through with flying colors.

Of all the tournaments I have been to, this past season’s was in my top three.

Third to be exact, but the best one that I wasn’t playing in.

See, in 2003, the Wildcats played in the state tournament, which goes down as my favorite state tournament for obvious reasons.

My second favorite state tournament which I have been a part of was in 1997, when I was drafted by the New Germany Dutchmen, and saw a little action on the mound for them.

That year, the Dutchmen opened up with a win, but fell in the second game. Both games were played in Maple Lake.

So, while looking back at past success and even failure is a big part of amateur baseball, and a fun part, the best is looking forward.

Will the Saints again make it to the state tournament, and could this be the year they win it all?

With Green Isle moving up to Class B, who will take advantage and move on to the Class C state tournament out of the Crow River?

Will the fact that the 2006 state tournament is in Rochester hurt the attendance, and amateur baseball in general?

Those are just some of the questions I have as the season begins, but I also am looking forward to getting out on the field.

Crow River games, especially North Division battles with the likes of New Germany, Mayer, and Watertown, are always a lot of fun.

Then, the non-league action against the Orphans and Saints is also a very good time.

Winsted always hosts Howard Lake once during the year, and also competes in the Good Neighbor Day’s tournament.

This year, it is looking like the Orphans and Wildcats will hook up in the opening round, in the late game.

The last time that happened, a huge crowd was on hand, which makes playing all the more fun.

The Wildcats will also hook up with the Saints this year, I believe it will be in Dassel.

Yep, baseball season is right around the corner and I just can’t wait, as I am sure many of you can’t.

So, until the first pitch is thrown, keep talking baseball, and be ready for one exciting season.