The Olson’s carry on family fastpitch tradition

Written by Bob on May 9th, 2012

The Grantsburg Lumber team of Grantsburg, Wisc. consisted of the eight Olson brothers, and this photo taken in the early 1970s was after they won a men’s fastpitch tournament; possibly in Stillwater, Minn. Front row from left, Jim Olson, Marvin Olson, Rich Olson and Dean Tyberg. Second row from left, Bob Gustafson (cousin), Mike Herrick, Jerry Olson, Donnie Olson, Chris Olson and Darrell Olson. Photo, courtesy of Troy Olson.

CUSHING, WI – In Cushing and Grantsburg, Wisconsin, and into Minnesota, when softball fans fan the flames of “remember when,” the Olson name frequently pops up.

This family of brothers and cousins, and dads and sons and nephews, have been playing fastpitch softball for, well, as long as most folks can recall.

Jim Olson played back in the 1960s, and into the 80s. The Olson teams were pretty dominant during that era, winning hundreds of games. But one of Jim’s biggest victories was passing the love of the sport on to his sons Troy and Trent. Troy still plays today, while Trent is on sabbatical, serving in the U.S. Air Force.

In the 60s to 80s, it was pretty much an all Olson team – with Jim, Marvin, Rich, Jerry, Donnie, Chris and Darrell Olson penciled in the lineup. They formed teams such as Grantsburg Lumber, and as the years rolled by, other sponsors’ names graced their uniforms.

“My family was all a bunch of fastpitch players who dominated this area into the early 80’s,” said Troy. “My dad had seven brothers and a cousin (Bob Gustafson), which made up their team and an occasional friend fill in (such as Dean Tyberg and Mike Herrick) here and there. They literally won hundreds if not thousands of games in this time period, and they are still kind of local legends within fastpitch circles here, even though they are now in their 60’s and a couple have passed away.”

Troy, 38, and Trent, 35, along with their cousin Dan Swenson, have played in national tournaments including the NAFA World Series, and the Age 23-Under national championship. But if not for the generation before them, they may never have ventured into the underhanded game.

“I got started with my father and uncle,” Troy said. “We didn’t have a baseball program at our school so I begged my uncle to play men’s league when I was in seventh grade. I started going to practice and the first night I went to a game they were short players, so I got my chance and never looked back. That was 1986 and I still love to play this game.”

Troy now plays for Suzy Q’s Bar – one of six men’s fastpitch teams from the small village of Cushing (population about 200) in the northwest part of the state. But he has crossed the Minnesota border and competed in the West St. Paul League (possibly the toughest league in the state at one time). He has also helped Ames Construction win the ASA Class B state tournament and also played in the NAFA World Series in Fargo, North Dakota in 2000-2001.

But fastpitch isn’t just male dominated among the Olson’s. Troy’s cousin Dawn Olson played softball for the Winona State College (Minn) Warriors.

How long will the Olson’s carry on their rich fastpitch legacy?

“I would guess in a few years some of our younger generation will form a team once they move back to the area,” Troy said. “We are all kind of spread out with our jobs, but (Masters) Over Age-40 will be possibility in the coming years.”

(Cushing will be the scene of the Ninth Annual Dugout Fastpitch Memorial Weekend Tournament, May 25-27, with the 28th as an extra day if needed. For more information, call Steve Loney at 715-483-3057.)

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