The Twin Cities and Minnesota fastpitch scene

Written by Bob on June 16th, 2010


The Jordan Realty men’s fastpitch softball team of the Minnesota Twin Cities area has won NAFA Masters Over-40 championships and ASA Masters state tournaments.
Submitted Photo

ST. PAUL and MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Kevin Kammueller’s loyalty lies with Jordan Realty and the Minnesota Angels men’s fastpitch softball teams. But when his ball clubs have the weekend off, the right-hander’s phone starts ringing.

“On any given weekend, I can be found playing with any team that needs a pitcher,” said the 44-year-old Kammueller, who began playing fastpitch in his mid-20s. “One of the many jokes about me is that I have a hat from every team in the state.”

And with all those tournaments and all those games, Kammueller has forged an impressive pitching resume.

He waves off individual achievements, but the facts don’t lie: Kammueller pitched for Jeraldine’s in the 2003 NAFA A World Series, and the St. Paul team won the title. And in 2007, He helped Jordan Realty win the NAFA East Division Over-40 Masters championship. And the team took second last year.

Jordan Realty is also the five-time reigning Minnesota Masters Champions, winning back-to-back state ASA titles in 2007 and 2008.

Certainly, that’s enough pitching to keep Kammueller busy.

But he’s also found time to wear the uniforms of several other ball clubs, including Villard, the Sioux Falls Sox, and the Minnesota Angels in his 20-plus year career that began as a catcher, outfielder, and infielder – except for second base and shortstop.

Over the years, Kammueller has seen the sport change in the Twin Cities and throughout the state. Some good changes, some not so good. He agreed to share his thoughts about men’s fastpitch in the Twin Cities area as well as the state in general.

Where is the best fastpitch (league play) in the Twin Cities? Everyone in Minnesota would probably agree that the West St. Paul League is the best around. There is a good mix of teams with a lower division of six (ASA C) teams. And an upper division of six (ASA B) to Open-level players.

Recap the 2009 Twin Cities season. Any surprises? The surprise team last year around the Twin Cities was the Mudhens. They got an infusion of new talent when (pitcher) Kent Casperson joined the team. They capped off their season with a 6-0 run through the Minnesota ASA Class “C” State Tournament where they only gave up 11 runs.

Any disappointments? The Minnesota Angels and Villard played in the ISC II Tournament of Champions. However, both teams had unsatisfying results. The Angels also played in the ASA Class “B” nationals in Prescott, Arizona, and once again laid an egg.

What is the pitching like in the West St. Paul League? The 2010 pitchers in the league include Juan Potolicchio, Andrew Blackshaw, Jason Iuli, Troy Westley, Roman Foore, Joel Cooley, Kent Casperson, and myself. Robby Schweyer had been a regular in the league for the past couple of years, but he is not throwing this year.

Any up-and-coming ball players? Brandon Aman played with the Mudhens and the Angels last year. He got his feet wet playing with the big boys in a couple of tournaments and showed that he could handle himself. He also hit the ball well in the ISC II and we are hoping he can do the same for us again this year at the ISC World Tournament.

Any veteran Masters players still showing the youngsters how it’s done? Billy Hafner plays on our (Jordan Realty) Masters team. The guy still runs like a teenager, can still throw like a shortstop… and hit a couple of line shots of Paul Algar (former ISC World Tournament Most Valuable Pitcher) at the NAFA East Masters.

Any of the older pitchers still winging it pretty well in Minnesota? One guy from Minnesota who has gained my eternal respect is Lou Heller (Odin Fastpitch). I believe Lou is probably closer now to age 60 than 50. For many years, he was a stand out player in the Minnesota State tournaments – both with his pitching arm and his bat. He could and would throw multiple games in a day, while hitting in the four hole. He was also the emotional leader of his teams. If there ever was a tougher competitor, I would like to meet that man. For me it is Lou Heller.

You are pitching for the Minnesota Angels, how’s the team shaping up? The team has big plans for this year. With the demise of the ISC II (Tournament of Champions), the Angels have decided to try and qualify for the ISC World Tournament.

How have the Angels geared up for a run at the World Tournament? Our sponsor, Jeff Larson, bolstered the roster with a few (Out of Area) players. Juan Potolicchio and Bruno Mutroni will be playing with us full time. Ryan Boland and Mitch Hardy will also be playing selected tournaments with us.

What about young pitchers. Any making a name for themselves? I hate to say it, but there simply are no new pitchers that I have seen in the leagues. The only ones of that variety seem to be when an ISC caliber pitcher wanders into town and throws a couple of games.

Do you see some hope with youngsters taking to the sport? There are a couple of teams in the league that have had some youth infusions over the winter as far as players go. For the most part they are young baseball players. So perhaps in a couple of years we will be talking about them. We are trying to come up with some ideas on how to attract some kids to the game, who we can teach to pitch…

Of the three major national organizations, ISC, NAFA, and ASA, which one(s) do most teams align themselves with? Most of the teams in the state and area would have identified themselves as ASA teams, however the local ASA Association seems hell bent on driving itself out of the men’s softball market.

How so? The ASA died several years ago in Wisconsin and has been pretty much replaced with the ISC and NAFA. It appears that Minnesota is on a path towards that as well. It is a rare occasion now when any team from Minnesota elects to go to an ASA national tournament.

What else is happening with the ASA in Minnesota? The Class A state tournament was dropped a decade ago due to a lack of teams, and I fear the Class B state will follow suit this year as teams decide to participate in the ISC World Tournament and NAFA World Series, which are now scheduled concurrently…

Who and what is being done to keep fastpitch alive in the Twin Cities? There are plenty of dedicated league directors running leagues, managers trying to field teams, and players trying to play all they can. And everyone is trying to get new blood into the game. But there is no real organized effort in the Twin Cities to actively promote the game.

Are new pitchers being developed? I have talked with people over the winter and during the season about finding ways to get young kids interested in the game. Specifically, to find kids who would like to learn how to pitch. I know several people, who are willing to meet with these kids over the winter and help them develop their skills…We are still working on it. So we will see how it goes.

It is great to have guys like Paul Harrington, who has said he will run the Farmington League as long as there are teams that want to play. Now, we need to guarantee that there will be teams to play.

If a ball player moves to the Twin Cities area, how can they find a team to play for? There are three main leagues in the Twin Cities area. For the West St. Paul League, contact Dave Schletty at dave.schletty@ci.west-saint-paul.mn.us. He has email addresses of all the managers and could hook up a player with a team, or could put a team on the waiting list to get into the league.

Farmington League, contact Paul Harrington at Paul.Harrington@mples.frb.org. He can put a player in contact with the managers.

St. Paul Municipal Athletics Department coordinates the leagues. Email: Muni@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

And players can always contact me at kevin.kammueller@ingenixconsulting.com.

For more great fastpitch news, visit these websites:
Al’s Fastball
Fastpitch West
International Softball Congress
North American Fastpitch Association
2010 ISC World Tournament, Midland, Mich.

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