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Some of the greatest in Minnesota fastpitch history to receive the sport’s highest honor

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Meet the 2018 Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame class: Of these 19 slowpitch, modified and fastpitch inductees, 13 starred in the fastpitch game as either players, umpires, managers and coaches, promoters, sponsors, administrators, or in some cases, were involved in every facet of the game. Photo courtesy of Perry Coonce / Executive Director of the Minnesota Softball Federation

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. – Some like the late Walter Nelson were great fastpitch pitchers in leading their teams to state and regional championships. Others like Tom Niederkorn, Bill Olson and Dan Lee could belt the riser, drop and change-up as well as any hitter to ever step into the batter’s box.

And still others, made their mark in the sport in nearly every conceivable way possible. Including Jim Langowski and Jack Norman, who first excelled as players and then remained in the sport for years volunteering, managing, promoting and serving in any capacity needed in continuing the great legacy of Minnesota men’s fastpitch softball.

For the following 13 men, whose time in the game stretches as far back as six and seven decades, they will receive the highest honor possible in Minnesota softball lore: induction into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame during a ceremony banquet at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, Nov. 2nd, under the direction of the Minnesota Sports Federation.

    Meet The Outstanding 2018 Hall of Fame Fastpitch Class
  • Wayne Dahl, player, from Dawson
  • Gary “Meatball” Holtz, player, Hutchinson
  • Dick Erickson, player, Dawson
  • Dan Huisman, player, Ellsworth
  • Charlie Johnson, umpire / meritorious service, Detroit Lakes & Hitterdahl
  • Jim Langowski, player, manager, promoter, meritorious service, Winona
  • Dan Lee, player, Dawson
  • Dick McNally, player, St. Charles & Ridgeway
  • *Walter Nelson, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Tom “Weed” Niederkorn, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Jack Norman, volunteer, organizer, meritorious service, Mankato & Lake Crystal
  • Bill Olson, player, Duluth
  • Jim Prestholdt, player, sponsor, manager, meritorious service, Dawson
  • Many superlatives were spoken about the inductees, including this accolade from Wayne Dahl and Ken Club, who led the nomination of Jim Prestholdt.

    “In his career as a pitcher, Jim won over 450 games,” said Dahl. “(He) was always organizing fastpitch leagues, teams and games at his own time and expense! He started a four-team league in Dawson (pop. 1,600). He would implore players to participate, and they would. Jim raised $20,000 in a week for a new concessions stand at Prestholdt Fields in Dawson…Jim also coached and mentored many developing players in the local league, particularly pitchers.”

    And this from Stan Knopick, who nominated Jim Langowski, who starred as a pitcher for 15 years in Minnesota and five in Northern California.

    “Jim was a great pitcher and fine hitter,” said Knopick. “But Jim was very active off the softball field also. He arranged tournaments, started the Winona Softball Association and was a manager for over 15 years in Minnesota and five in California. Jim organized tournaments, hired the umpires, took care of the media work, selected volunteers to help at games and tournaments, helped prepare the fields, and used his knowledge to mentor young softball players, both boys and girls.”

    And the tributes for the others are just as inspiring.

    Minnesota Fastpitch History: When the ‘World Championship’ came to Parade Stadium

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

    In the 1958 ASA Men’s Major Fastpitch National Championship at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis, TOM NICHOLS of Toledo, left, WILL BRADY, Miami, JOHN SPRING, Stratford, and ROY STEPHENSON, Long Island display their prowess as pitchers in the national championship. SPRING went on to pitch Stratford to the championship over Lake Charles, La. Minneapolis Tribune Photo By Paul Siegel

    Minneapolis hosted the ASA Men’s Major National Championships at Parade Stadium in 1954 and 1958. Here’s some brief information about the teams and players who made the 1958 championship special in the state’s fastpitch history.

    Cloquet upsets Farmington 2-1 on Three Hits
    By AUGIE KARCHER / Minneapolis Tribune Sports Writer
    Sep 16, 1958

    MINNEAPOLIS – Northwest Paper of Cloquet, Minnesota’s ASA Northern Regional champion, shocked favored Farmington, New Mexico, 2-1, in one of the tightest games of the day.

    BOBO JOHNSON set the Builders down on two hits, one of them a 250-foot home run by Gehrig Garrison in the first inning. The only other hit was in the sixth, but fine defensive work prevented what could have been the tying score.

    Cloquet didn’t get a man on base until the fourth, which LES SALO opened with an infield hit. He was sacrificed to second and scored on JIM ARNTSON’S single to left. Arntson took second on an error and scored on a blooper to center by Dave Holmes.

    Farmington…100 000 0—1 2 3
    Cloquet………..000 200 x—2 3 1
    Bill Lingle and M.T. Autry; Bobo Johnson and Herb Huard

    ***Cloquet was eventually eliminated by Stratford, Conn., 8-2, who went on to win the the championship over Lake Charles, La.***

    “JUNK’ NETS ONE-HITTER

    A drop pitch that “didn’t drop” cost CHUCK HAYS a no-hitter Tuesday when Minneapolis Soo Line nipped St. Louis 3-0 in the World Softball tournament. St. Louis shortstop Chuck Stiebel got the only hit – a sharp single to center in the fifth.

    “I threw a lot of junk,” said Hays, “never have been a really fast pitcher.”

    SOFTBALL WORLD TOURNAMENT FIRST-ROUND

    Houston, Texas, 2, Cairo, Ga., 0
    Stratford Conn., 2, Miami, Fla. 0
    Seattle, Wash., 8, San Gabriel, Calif., 2
    Long Island, N.Y., 3, Toledo, Ohio, 0
    Washington, D.C., 6, Casper, Wyo. 0
    Cloquet, Minn., 2, Farmington, N.M., 1
    Lake Charles, La., 1, Montreal, 0
    Aurora, Ill., 4, Clearwater, Fla., 0
    Air Force 6, Washington, D.C., 0
    Winnipeg 19, British Columbia 8

    TODAY’S SCHEDULE / WORLD SOFTBALL

      PARADE ONE

    Noon – San Gabriel (0-1) vs. Casper, Wyo. (0-1); 1:30 – Sacramento (0-1) vs Farmington, N.M. (0-1); 3 p.m. – Vancouver, Canada (0-1) vs. Washington D.C. (0-1); 7:30 p.m. – Houston (1-0) vs. Long Island (2-0); 9 p.m. – Stratford, Conn. (1-0) vs. Cloquet, Minn. (1-0).

      PARADE TWO

    Noon – Minneapolis Soo Line (0-1) vs. St. Louis (0-1); 1:30 p.m. – Toledo (0-1) vs. Miami, Fla. (0-1); 3 p.m. – Cairo, Ga. (1-1) vs. Montreal (0-1); 7:30 p.m. – Lake Charles (2-0) vs. U.S. Air Force (1-0); Aurora, Ill. (1-0) vs. Seattle (1-0)

    2018 Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame Information

    Friday, September 21st, 2018

    ST. CLOUD, Minn. – The Minnesota Sports Federation will host the 2018 Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame banquet at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, Nov. 2. The 2018 class includes 19 of the state’s all-time great slowpitch and fastpitch players.

    ***Click for Hall of Fame Ticket Order Form***

    Reservations and hotel Information

    Minnesota Fastpitch Softball Stars Entering Hall of Fame

    Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

    SOUTH. ST. PAUL, Minn. – I’m very pleased to learn that three of the finest fastballers the state has ever produced are being inducted into the Minnesota Sports Federation Softball Hall of Fame that includes 19 slowpitch and fastpitch stars in this outstanding class of 2018.

    As an 18-year-old the first really good team I pitched against was Loesch’s Bar of Hastings that was loaded with great fastpitch players, and none were better than pitcher WALT NELSON, and catcher, pitcher, infielder and outfielder TOM NIEDERKORN, who went on to star with famed Whitaker Buick of St. Paul.

    Photo caption: Walt Nelson is pictured second from left, and Tom Niederkorn is first player far right. Courtesy Photo / Steve Nelson

    Nelson and Niederkorn helped two Hastings’ ball clubs, including Loesch’s Bar, win two state ASA Class A state championships (and an overall title after beating the AA champion) as well as a runner-up, along with club tournament titles in Minnesota and neighboring states.

    Also being inducted is JACK NORMAN of Lake Crystal, who I played with on the Lake Crystal Blues in 1974-’75. After his playing days, Norman became an outstanding manager, umpire and administrator.

    Though Nelson has passed away, Congratulations to his family, friends and former teammates who share this honor on behalf of him. And congratulations to Tom and Jack for this well-deserved tribute in recognition of your outstanding fastpitch careers!

    *** Visit Minnesota Sports Federation on Facebook.***

    Farmington (MN) Men’s Fastpitch Reunion Sunday

    Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

    CASTLE ROCK, Minn. – The Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League flourished for 54 years (1958-2011) in the town of Farmington, along with the popular Bobber Tournament, also held in Farmington that drew teams from Minnesota and neighboring states.

    The league and tournament are no more, but the memories live on in the hearts and minds of those who played and were fans, and will be shared in a grand reunion, Sunday, Aug. 26 at the Castle Rock & Roll Bar and Grill in Castle Rock.

  • Be sure to attend and share your memories in what promises to be a great time.
  • Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League Hosts Reunion To Remember The Good Times

    Tuesday, August 21st, 2018


    PAUL HARRINGTON, who coaches the Farmington High School girls’ softball team and directed the men’s city league, shows former Farmington High school pitcher Ashley Betzold how to throw the rise ball. Ashley’s father, Daren Betzold, was a top pitcher in the Farmington league for 25 years (1976 – 2001). Contributed photo.

    FARMINGTON, Minn. – For 54 years (1958-2011) men’s fastpitch softball was played in Farmington. The list of teams and sponsors, players, managers and umpires would as the saying goes, “stretch for an arm’s length.”

    Though the historic Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League and Bobber Men’s Fastpitch Tournament are no more, that doesn’t mean they’re forgotten. And on Aug. 26, a reunion will be held to reminisce about those great times at the Castle Rock & Roll Bar & Grill in Castle Rock.

    Of those 54 years, Paul Harrington directed the Farmington league 37 years (1975-2011). He was just 19 when he took the reins after the league director suddenly resigned in the middle of the season.

    The league and tournament evolved over the years to become two of the strongest entities in Minnesota fastpitch history.

    League teams claimed state championships in 1992 and ’99, along with Castle Rock and Morelli’s of St. Paul who are believed to have also won titles, while playing the league season in Farmington.

    “Breaking the door down and winning a state championship in 1992 is a big memory for me,” said Harrington. “But knowing our league teams were always in the mix afterwards with other state championships and high finishes, and giving our league respect and recognition was very fulfilling as a league director.”

    Click to continue reading “Farmington Men’s Fastpitch League Hosts Reunion To Remember The Good Times”

    Hennager men’s fastpitch softball team repeats as Minnesota state champs

    Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

    The Hennager Plumbing and Heating Men’s Fastpitch Softball Team repeated as Minnesota Class A Men’s  Fastpitch State Softball Champions, going 4-0 in last weekend’s tournament in Blaine, Minn. Team members include, front row, from left: Chris Bambenek, Minneapolis; Tyler Eickhoff, Fountain; Jake Dalton, Lake Crystal; Spencer Yackel, Rochester; Brent Meshke, Lake Crystal; and David Dewitz, Good Thunder. Back from, from left, is: Coach Blake Meshke, Lake Crystal; Brett Scheevel, Rochester; Ryan Scheevel, Rochester; Brandon Friedrichs, Lake Crystal; Derek Meshke, Brookings, S.D.; Josh Schroeder, Lake Crystal; and Robert Petersen, Pipestone. Photo By Sheryl Doering Meshke

    Walk-off home run wins repeat title for Lake Crystal ball club

    By Sheryl Doering Meshke
    Reporter / Photographer
    Aug. 5, 2018

    BLAINE, Minn. – The Hennager Plumbing and Heating Men’s Fastpitch Softball Team repeated as Minnesota Sports Federation Class A Men’s Fastpitch State Champions, going 4-0 this weekend at Aquatore Park in Blaine, Minn.

    As defending champs, the Hennager team — “Plumbers” — received a first-round bye. In the opening game, the hometown team defeated the Bombers of Fargo, N.D., 6-2. Brent Meshke of Lake Crystal, Minn., took the win, with five strikeouts. Collecting base hits were Jake Dalton, Lake Crystal, and Robert Petersen, Pipestone, Minn. Brent Meshke added a solo homer.

    Brent Meshke helped Hennager Plumbing and Heating of Lake Crystal win the 2018 Minnesota Men’s Class A State Fastpitch Championship, Aug. 5 in Blaine, Minn. Photo By Sheryl Doering Meshke

    Facing the St. Paul Pawns of St. Paul, Minn., the Hennager men won in a slugfest, 15-9. Brent Meshke and Ryan Scheevel, Rochester, Minn., shared duties on the mound. Collecting multiple hits for the Plumbers were Dalton; Brent Meshke; Petersen; Brandon Friedrichs, Lake Crystal; and Josh Schroeder, Lake Crystal. Petersen and Schroeder delivered home runs.

    Following a sixth-inning home run to tie the championship game, Josh Schroeder receives accolades from team members Jake Dalton, center, and Brent Meshke. Photo By Sheryl Doering Meshke

    To reach the championship game, the Plumbers defeated Minnesota Computers, St. Paul, 3-1, with Scheevel taking the win. He gave up six hits and struck out one. Dalton and Scheevel went two for four at the plate, with Scheevel securing a solo home run.

    In the championship game, the Plumbers defeated Striker’s Lanes of Baldwin, Wis., 6-4. Brent Meshke started in the circle. In the top of the first inning, the Strikers scored three runs. The Plumbers answered with three runs in the bottom of the first. Strikers scored again in the top of the fifth, to take a one-run lead.

    Scheevel relieved Brent Meshke in the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Schroeder hit a solo home run to tie the game, 4-4. With a final chance for the win in the bottom of the seventh inning, lead-off batter Dalton bunted for a single. Brent Meshke, in the third spot, hit a walk-off home run to win the title. Scheevel picked up the win.

    As Brent Meshke rounds third base, coach Blake Meshke gives a high five for the walk-off home run to win the state men’s fastpitch softball championship. Photo By Sheryl Doering Meshke

    Ryan Scheevel of Rochester, Minn. fires a pitch during the 2018 Minnesota Class A Men’s State Fastpitch Softball Tournament. Scheevel picked up the win in the championship game in a 6-4 victory over Striker’s Lanes. Photo By Sheryl Doering Meshke

    Boys’ Fastpitch Softball Fun Days In Michigan!

    Friday, April 20th, 2018

    FRANKENMUTH, Mich. – Gary Compau and volunteers are offering an opportunity for boys between the ages of 8 to 18 from Frankenmuth, Saginaw, Midland, Flint, Birch Run, and Reese to learn more about and play the game of fastpitch softball. So they’ve organized a Fun Days that will run from Sundays in April and May.

    Fun Days organizer, Gary Compau of Frankenmuth, realizes that to revive and expand the game, young players need to be brought into the game.

    “It’s up to us,” he said. “We can make this a success.”

      THE DETAILS
  • All boys, 8 to 18, are invited from inexperienced to experienced
  • Experienced fastpitch past and present players will be there offering tips on catching, fielding, and hitting
  • Veteran pitchers will be helping and advising players who want to learn how to pitch
  • The Fun Days are FREE and will not interfere with Little League or baseball
  • Balls and bats will be provided
    • THE FUN!
  • Teams will be formed and games will be played
    • WHERE
  • The two ball fields at Frankenmuth St. Lorenz Lutheran School. One field for the younger players and one for the older. (We request that an adult accompany the young players)
    • WHEN

    April 22-May 20, and May 6, starting at 4 p.m.

      CONTACT INFORMATION

    Gary Compau at 989-262-8452; Email is tawasgary@att.net

    “This is not tryouts,” said Compau. “Come out and enjoy the experience. We will provide the fun. Just come out and enjoy it and see where it goes.”

    Dutch Elbers helped drive St. Paul to fastpitch greatness

    Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

    Ben Maloney, left, Ed Mathias, and Dutch Elbers hold the 1963 ASA Northern Regional Tournament championship trophy.

    (Sadly Dutch Elbers passed away on April 5, 2018. See obituary in which condolences and tributes are welcome)

    Dutch Elbers served the International Softball Congress for over 20 years in several capacities, including the organization’s president. In 1988, he was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

    ST. PAUL, Minn. – Strong armed, with a lanky athletic build, Dries (Dutch) Elbers mostly likely could have stared at baseball, but fortunately for fastpitch softball, he never got the chance.

    “My dad played baseball, but he steered me into softball,” said Elbers. “I have never played a game of baseball in my life.”

    Elbers, who grew up in Steen in southwestern Minnesota, began playing fastpitch in the 4-H League in 1945 as a 15-year-old. It wasn’t long, though, that he graduated from the boys’ league into the Steen men’s league.

    Steen might have been small in numbers with its 185 citizens, but they and the farm families surrounding the little village located 25 miles east of Sioux Falls, kept the six team-league healthy with numbers and talent.

    “As kids, we wanted to get a uniform and play with the big boys,” Elbers said. Soon enough Elbers would be playing with the ‘big boys’ of fastpitch – worldwide.

    Click to continue reading “Dutch Elbers helped drive St. Paul to fastpitch greatness”

    A Look Back In Time: Happy Chef in Mankato for sale, full of fastpitch softball memories

    Friday, September 1st, 2017

    The late Leroy Jolstad was a pitching mainstay for Mankato Happy Chef men’s fastpitch team.

    By Patrick Reusse / August 23, 2015
    StarTribune

    MANKATO – The Happy Chef restaurant and adjoining property are for sale. It’s the original and surviving restaurant from a collection of 63 that were once operated in the Midwest by the Fredrick brothers.

    “We’re still in business,” said Tom Fredrick, 81. “We’re going to stay in business.”

    Mention Happy Chef and many people think of the towering, round Happy Chef figure that stood in front of numerous restaurants — and remains smiling today next to Hwy. 169 as you enter Mankato.

    Mention Happy Chef to others and they think of something else near extinction: men’s fastpitch softball.

    Click to continue reading “A Look Back In Time: Happy Chef in Mankato for sale, full of fastpitch softball memories”