Highly rated family garage a NAFA World Series champion

Written by Bob on August 24th, 2017

First baseman and manager, Jim Washenberger, admires the first place trophy presented to him after Len’s Automontive of St. Paul, Minn. won the NAFA A Division World Series championship. Photo By ANNE SATTERLEE

ST. PAUL, Minn. – On West 7th Street in St. Paul, there’s a small garage, family owned, called Len’s Automotive.

It’s owned and run by the Washenberger’s – mother Gail and sons Jim and Dave.

An Internet search reveals that Len’s Automotive has a 5.0 out of 5.5 star rating. Pretty impressive and a symbol of excellence.

But Len’s does much more than provide excellent automotive service. They play some pretty good men’s fastpitch softball too.

First a little background.

Brothers Jim and Dave attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School where they played baseball. After graduating, the boys took up softball – the slowpitch variety. (Hold the booing, please.)

All the while, there friends who were playing fastpitch, would stop by the garage and badger them to “give up lob ball,” said Joe Ganther, friend and fellow softball player.

“Finally,” said Ganther, “Paul Buzicky and George “Buzzy” Connors made Jim a late convert to the sport in 2000 when he was already in his mid-30s. After his first game, he was hooked.”

Jim played for Connors and for Ganther’s St. Paul Pawns team, but in 2006, he decided he would start his own team, and of course, named it Len’s Automotive.

But Jim didn’t just start the team for himself. He decided this would become a family affair. So when his sons Chad turned 16 and Brandon 12, he got them started pitching.

Jim’s a pretty smart operator. He knew that if Chad got hooked on the game, the doorway would swing open with other young players coming aboard.

“Over the next few years a number of Chad’s baseball teammates and opponents started joining the team,” said Ganther. “They started a solid young core.”

Len’s joined the St. Paul League and soon enough some memorable battles ensued between Len’s and Ganther’s Pawns ball club.

Intense contests, yes, but once the game was over, the two ball clubs often set up the BBQ grill and rehashed the game – with I’m sure – some good old fashioned fastpitch ‘grilling’ of each other highlighting some of the banter and laughter.

The friendly rivalry even had a traveling trophy the two squads battled over.

“It was a wooden baseball bat painted with the history of the scores and stored in an old pool cue case,” said Ganther.

Then in 2011 a transformation took place: Pawns and Len’s joined forces to create a tournament team. The team started playing upwards of 80 games a season including an annual trip to the NAFA World Series.

“We took our lumps, but we made steady progress,” said Ganther, adding that additional talent was added over time. “Those additions and the development of the young core of players started to make us competitive in most tournaments we entered.”

But cognizant of the need to keep more players and teams in the game, the two ball clubs stayed separate for league and Minnesota state tournament play.

In 2017, Len’s played in eight tournaments, finishing as co-champions of the Fargo Memorial tournament; second at Hollywood, Minn.; third in the Wisconsin Rice Lake Aquafest and Milltown tourneys, and Len’s placed fifth in the West St. Paul tournament that featured five-of-eight teams ranked in the top 16 by the International Softball Congress.

The Len’s Auto juggernaut also swept through the St. Paul League taking the title with an 11-1 record.

And as the icing on a fabulous season, Len’s Automotive won the A-Division NAFA World Series on the organization’s 25th anniversary. Len’s had a clean slate, going undefeated at 7-0.

During the early rounds, Ganther and his teammates were studying the opposing teams closely, trying to spot the team to beat.

“The Fargo Knights was playing great ball and Scandia is always gritty,” said Ganther, “ and Davey Meyer was putting out a herculean pitching effort for Duluth.”

But Len’s ball players soon got the message that they were one of the favorites to take the 38-team tournament.

“Other teams were coming up to us talking about how we were playing,” said Ganther. “It was roughly then that we realized we just might be that hot team this year.”

So this family-owned automotive shop located in St. Paul that gets a 5-star rating for its service, has earned the highest rating possible in the NAFA World Series – a championship.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Kenny Schonning says:

    What a Great story and congratulations to Jim and Lens!

  2. Bob says:

    I’m happy they won. And an all Minnesota final made it even better.

  3. John Filipczak says:

    Congratulations! to the Washenberger Family on their exceptional automotive service and their outstanding performance on the ballfield. We wish you continued success in both endeavors. John n Myrna

  4. Bob says:

    Thank you John for your input. Great in the shop, great on the ball field. I am pleased that I got to know Jim, his team, and that they won the championship!

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