Thole: Mother Nature throws wet blanket on local sports teams

The grounds were in midseason form at the Little League baseball facility in Petaluma, Calif., during a recent visit out west. The well-manicured fields feature electronic scoreboards, concession stands and fenced-in bullpens. (Photos by Karen Thole)

The grounds were in midseason form at the Little League baseball facility in Petaluma, Calif., during a recent visit out west. The well-manicured fields feature electronic scoreboards, concession stands and fenced-in bullpens. (Photos by Karen Thole)

Looking around the baseball diamonds at Stillwater High, Oak-Land JH and Stillwater JH, I have concluded that Ponies athletic director Ricky Michel and officials at the junior high schools will spend a lot of telephone and computer overtime this spring.

I’m sure that Ma Nature will get that white stuff taken care of soon, but that’s not the only problem. The frost will be released from the ground, leaving fields of goo to deal with.

4-4 spo-thole Petaluma 2While I’m talking baseball, you can guess things are markedly different in California, which we saw firsthand on a recent trip. The prep baseball teams in the Golden State already have several games under their belts.

Across the street from the Thole-Conklin homestead are three manicured little league baseball fields located adjacent to Petaluma Junior High School. These fields are complete with electronic scoreboards, ample seating, concession stands and, get this — fenced in bullpens. These are max facilities that any high school would die for. All three fields contain the bells and whistles mentioned above.

I should mention that Petaluma placed runner-up in the Little League World Series a couple years ago and there appears to be solid support for the program. Prior to 1963, looking across the street from the Thole-Conklin houses revealed several acres of dairy cows, chicken coops and wide-open spaces.

Times have changed in this coastal town that numbered 16,000 neighbors when I graduated from PHS in 1957 to a sprawling 58,804 strangers today. It seems like every year the number of people with familiar faces gets cut in half. Times have changed!

Stillwater spring sports teams have been forced indoors for much of this spring because of the late thaw, creating a late start to the season for the second year in a row. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

Stillwater spring sports teams have been forced indoors for much of this spring because of the late thaw, creating a late start to the season for the second year in a row. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

I can say for certain that kids playing baseball has really changed in the last dozen lustrums. We had makeshift equipment that included broken bats that were made healthy again with a well-placed nail and electrical tape. In fact, we served as batboys for our town teams (the Longhorns and the Cubs) and made use of all the broken bats and cut baseballs.

Our manicured fields consisted of a vacant lot on Fifth Street that contained an ample supply of rocks. There weren’t any moms sitting in lawn chairs with water bottles and snacks.

We didn’t have umpires and if a major dispute occurred it was usually resolved by somebody being on the receiving end of a knuckle sandwich. Everyone was friends when the game ended by dark and all the fights were forgiven. That was one of the rules.

The moms set the time limit for all of our football and baseball games with instructions: “be home by dark,” or “be home by supper.”

Karen and I tried to take pictures of the Petaluma Little League facility, but they left much to be desired. Maybe our Baby Brownie is another victim of time.

 

In the huddle

I wonder what the over-under is for when the Ponies rawhiders of coach Mike Parker and the softball team of coach Bob Beedle get their first home games under their belts. Speaking of baseball, Trevor Dudar has accepted a scholarship offer from Midland University in Nebraska. We previously mentioned that last fall Aliza Deming from the girls’ tennis team and Sydney Evensen of the girls’ lacrosse team signed tenders for the University of North Dakota and the University of Colorado, respectively. Three football players for the Ponies have made their college choices. All-state offensive tackle Peter Palecek (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) has accepted a scholarship to Division II St. Cloud State University. Palecek was also a state qualifier wrestler and blocked for a Ponies offense that averaged 311.9 yards and 25.6 points per game. Danny Ekstrand (5-10, 225), an offensive lineman, will play for Concordia-St. Paul. Quarterback Trevor Tillett, who completed 75 of 159 passes for 1,027 yards, will join Ekstrand at Concordia-St. Paul. The Ponies will have seven starters returning from their 3-6 team and several solid prospects from the 8-1 sophomore team…. Kristin Erf will be swimming at South Dakota State University in Brookings in the fall and Stephanie Dietrich is slated to bring her volleyball talents to Michigan Tech at the same time…. Checking out the SAHS boys’ hockey coaches, we find that first-year head man Matt Doman was a two-time captain for the Wisconsin Badgers. Jay Cates was a captain and leading scorer for the Golden Gophers of Minnesota and Pete Hamilton was a goalie for the Michigan Tech Huskies. Cates and Hamilton are former Ponies standouts. Defenseman Mitch Reinke has signed on to play for Michigan Tech University…. The Minnesota Gophers placed 10th at the NCAA Women’s National Swimming and Diving Championships last month at the U of M Aquatic Center. Diver Maggie Keefer of Stillwater did yeoman service for the Maroon and Gold by placing fourth in the one-meter, ninth in the 3-meter and 12th in platform. She earned All-American honors for the third time after being a mainstay for three Big Ten Championships. Prior to nationals, Keefer was named the Big Ten Diver of the Year for the second consecutive season. She won the 3-meter diving (386.75) and placed second in the 1-meter diving (339.05) at the Big Ten Championships. This marks the fourth time in five years a U of M diver has won the Diver of the Year award. Keefer, a senior captain who is majoring in kinesiology, began swimming when she was 12 years old and has been diving for 10 years. I think most people in the land of the Ponies know that Keefer has true grit…. Sorry to see the passing of Bob Melin at the age of 88. He was a true team player with a smile and a handshake for everyone…. Keep calm and march on…. finis

 

Today’s rumination #657

Don’t regret the things you do, only the things you don’t do.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Fridays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: georgethole@gmail.com

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