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38 summers and counting
Aug. 20, 2012

At the age of 58, Loretto Larks pitcher Randy Moselle is defying the laws of age in the game of baseball

By Matt Kane
Sports Editor

LORETTO, MN — Randy Moselle is overdue for a pacemaker. The 58-year-old Rogers resident was supposed to already have the devise inserted into his chest, but the procedure had to wait — until after baseball season.

“I could have had it done now, but then I can’t lift my arm above my shoulder for four weeks after I get it,” Moselle explained.

Being able to lift his arm above his shoulder is a necessity for Moselle, a right-handed pitcher.

For Moselle, scheduling anything during the summer months, more specifically the baseball season, which runs, roughly, from April until Labor Day weekend, is not a good idea, and it hasn’t been a good idea since 1975, when he buttoned up the jersey of the since-folded New Hope-Crystal Twins, his first amateur team. And, for Babe Ruth’s sake, don’t schedule anything for August, the month of region playoffs and the state tournament.

It took a while for Moselle’s wife, Diane, to figure out that summers were for baseball.

“For years, she didn’t figure out that August was playoff time,” Moselle said. “She gets it now. It probably took 25 years.”

It is August now, and, staying true to form, Moselle is in the state tournament — this time with the Loretto Larks.

The Larks, with Moselle in the bullpen, opened the Class C state tournament Friday night against Wilmont. How far Loretto goes in the tournament will ultimately determine the scheduling of that pacemaker procedure for Moselle.

I’m scheduled for Aug. 29. If we make the final weekend, I’m going to have to push (the procedure) back another week,” Moselle explained.

Moselle’s heart may need a little help to keep its rhythm in line, but there is no question that heart beats baseball and, specifically, state tournaments.

Postponing August appointments are the norm for Moselle, as state tournaments are an annual event. If there was a Mount Rushmore for Minnesota’s amateur state tournament, he would probably be on it. Although he doesn’t know the exact number of state tournaments he has gone to, the number is in the 30s. Unknowingly, he held the record of 28 consecutive trips (from 1977 to 2004) until 2007, when Dassel-Cokato Saints pitcher John Riewer tied the mark at the tournament in Hamburg and Norwood.

“That record just came out a year or two before Riewer broke it, so I didn’t really know about it,” Moselle said of the consecutive-tournaments mark. “(Riewer) is a great guy, and I had no problem with him breaking it.”

Moselle was on the Saints’ bench at that 2007 state tournament year, as a drafted player from Hamel. Riewer went on to play in 30-consecutive tournaments, the last in 2009.

Ironically, also on the Saints’ bench during that 2007 run was coach Jeff Neutzling, who played in 32 state tournaments during his amateur career, many with both Riewer and Moselle.

Neutzling, who has called Moselle “Satchell”, as in Satchell Paige, who debuted with the Cleveland Indians in 1948 at the age of 42 and threw his final pitch at the age of 47, was a teammate of Moselle’s many times. They were battery mates with the Minnesota Gophers in 1976, and with the Gophers collegiate summer teams; and then with the DC Saints in town team ball.

To have Moselle and Riewer in the same dugout during that 2007 state tournament run was unique, Neutzling said.

“You don’t come across too many situations you haven’t seen,” Neutzling said, referring to that 2007 state tournament, when Riewer broke the record formerly held by Moselle, who sat just feet away on the bench. ”A lot of old stories.”

This year is Moselle’s first trip to state since that 2009 season, when he was drafted by Cold Spring, and his first trip with Loretto.

Moselle joined the Larks in 2011. Along with Loretto, Moselle has gone to state as a roster player with Columbia Heights and Hamel, and has been a drafted player with Prior Lake, Dassel-Cokato, Hutchinson, St. Michael and Cold Spring.

“His ability to get out,” said Neutzling, when asked why Moselle was such a coveted draft choice come playoff time.

Neutzling, who caught many of Moselle’s games, explained Moselle’s style.

“Extremely good control. It was hard-in, and the slider away would get guys out,” the old catcher said. “You didn’t have to worry about the walks. He was always around the plate.”

Moselle didn’t just show up to fill space on those state tournament teams, he was and is a vital part. He has won four state championships. Moselle helped Columbia Heights win Class A titles in 1978 and 1989, and the Class B title in 1986; and Hamel win the Class B title in 1997. He was the tournament MVP in two of those championship seasons with Columbia Heights (1986 and 1989).

In 1986, Moselle picked up two wins and one save. He pitched 20 shutout innings, striking out 15 while allowing only 10 hits. In 1989, Moselle struck out 21 batters in 18 innings. He won two games, giving up just two earned runs and eight hits.

Despite his success with a baseball on the big stage, Moselle still feels the pressure of the state tournament.

“I still get butterflies. If I didn’t, it would be time to quit,” Moselle said.

Change in role

While he was one of the main men for those Columbia Heights and Hamel teams, Moselle has accepted his role as a reliever toward the back of the bullpen with the Larks.

“I’m not the man anymore, and that is a good, humbling experience. I knew that coming over here — they had their own players,” Moselle said of Loretto. “In the old days, when you were the man, it was fun when you knew you were getting the ball. Here, I just wait my turn and, when I get it, it is great.”

Moselle came to Loretto in 2011, the year Hamel did not field a team. It was a move that was discussed years ago, according to Loretto Manager Herb Koch, who knew Moselle well from playing 13 seasons with him in the Roy Hobbs league down in Florida.

“He always wanted to play for us for a few years but he lived outside the area. He moved to Rogers and then was eligible to play for us,” said Koch, who, at the age of 52, is six years Moselle’s junior.

With the Larks, Moselle serves as both relief pitcher and mentor.

“I feel like I am a half-coach. I don’t think they pick my mind, but I often volunteer information. I suggest things,” he said. “They see me as the old guy, I think. It’s kind of a coaching role, but I am ready to throw when they want me to.”

Moselle’s arm is strong this year, and he has shown that he is still an effective option for Koch.

“He’s really valuable. He has so much experience, and he’s good to have on the bench when he’s not pitching,” Koch said of Moselle. “For short relief, he does a great job. He brings that to the table for us.

“He has good control and throws strikes. And he has a great pickoff move to first.”

Moselle pitched in two Region 12C playoff games for Loretto, and threw 8 1/3 innings during the regular season.

“He’s got that nasty slider. It’s tough,” said Neutzling. “I saw him play in the region playoffs and he still has a lively arm. The ball gets there in a hurry, and he has that slider.”

Filling a relief role for Loretto brings Moselle’s amateur career full circle. Early on, he was a reliever for those Columbia Heights teams, which featured the dominant left-handed duo of Jerry Wichman and Perry Bauer.

“They were the two starters, and they were both left-handed. I would come on in relief from the right side. That’s what I enjoyed doing and I did it for a number of years,” Moselle explained. “When they left Columbia Heights, I became a starter and continued to be a starter until the past four or five years, when I became a reliever again.”

Moselle said being a reliever is much more relaxing.

“I don’t get the butterflies and the excitement buildup, because I don’t know if I’m playing or not,” he said. “The thing I like about relief is that I don’t have to sit and think about it all night and lose sleep. I just show up and, as the game progresses, I start to think when it might be my time.

“The tension and butterflies aren’t there like a starter, but they do come.”

Not done yet

As for when Moselle will finally hang up his glove and spikes, it’s not quite time, yet.

“At one time, I thought it would be great to play until I’m 40. With families and kids, 40 is tough to do. Then I got to 50 and then I thought what about 60,” he explained. “My goal now is 60. I want to play next year, but we will see. It takes me a little more to get into shape — I have to see a chiropractor; and I’ve gotta see some other guy who beats up my muscles.”

The true factor as to when Moselle, who has two grandchildren, will close the book on his amateur career is performance.

“There aren’t a lot of guys this age who are still playing competitively. Some people say the amateur game is for the kids, but I figure that if I can compete, why not. I love the game. I’m not here to take anybody’s spot; I just love competing,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to not have any arm problems until last year. I haven’t lost a whole lot of velocity, and I have learned to pitch smarter and change speeds.

“If I hit 80 or 82, that would be good,” he said.

Moselle doesn’t throw in the upper 80s anymore like he did when he came out of Robbinsdale Armstrong High School or during his single seasons with both North Hennepin Community College and the Gophers, so Moselle has to pitch now, rather than just throw the ball.

Moselle was also a center fielder at Armstrong and North Hennepin, and played outfield when he returned to amateur ball after his one season with the Gophers.

“I would go out there today — if it’s a daytime game. I can’t see at night,” he said, revealing some of those health issues that creep up on ageless ball players. “I’m just not quite as sure, and I don’t get the jump I used to. My first step is a second step.”

Moselle still plays some outfield in Florida, but is with the Larks for his pitching arm.

Moselle relies on a slider, and is famous around the state for a deadly pickoff move.

Neutzling knows that move.

“He has an extremely good move to first base. He has picked a lot of people off. Not so much deception, just quickness,” said Neutzling.

“It’s saved my butt a few times,” Moselle said of the pickoff move. He thinks his days playing soccer, which he still does, gave him quick feet and credits that for the move, but really can’t explain why the pickoff move is so successful. “I have no idea. I just do it.

“I think Herb should bring me in just for a pickoff.”

Discussing his longevity, Moselle declares the switch back to wood bats is a huge factor.

“Wood bats have been great. They are keeping me around,” he admitted. “You can go inside now. In the old days, you would go inside and they would fist it for a double. Or some of them could take it out of the park. Now, you go inside and break a bat, and you smile that you took $70 out of their hands.”

Moselle still throws like a pitcher half or even one-third his age, but every now and then a moment on the field will remind him of just how old he is.

“I was throwing in a state tournament game against Ultimate Sports out of St. Cloud. I got done with the game and the catcher from the other team came up to me and said, ‘My dad said to say ‘Hello,’” Moselle said, laughing. “I knew I was getting old then. I’ve gotten a couple of those in recent years.”

Moselle may be old in baseball terms, but he just keeps on going.

“Randy is one of those rare breeds. He is the Energizer bunny. He keeps on going,” Neutzling said. “He takes care of himself and is always in great shape.”

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