Dan Nessler

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For the Olson’s and Duluth, a thriving time of men’s fastpitch

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

1988 ASA NATIONAL CHAMPION DULUTH STEWART TAYLOR PRINTING. Top from left: Dick Olson Manager, Jim Olson, Randy Hill, Mike Thomas, Brian Langeland, Corey Thomas, Paul Friesen, Brad Emanuel and Tom Olson. Bottom from left: Jerry Strange, Mike Morrissey, Bill Olson, Clay Kerr and Casey Frank. Team helper Mitch. Courtesy Photo

DULUTH, Minn. – Once upon a time a man could stand in the center of Minnesota and point to the east, west, north or south and as surely as the sun rises and sets, men’s fastpitch was being played in most cities and small towns of the state’s 87 counties.

That was the thriving times of the 1960s to 1980s.

Owatonna, St Paul, Minneapolis and Mankato? Booming. Winona and Rochester? Hot beds.

Scandia, Hastings, Red Wing, Lake Crystal, Wanamingo, St. James and Geneva? Teeming with teams, leagues and tournaments.

And up in the northern reaches of the state snuggled up to the western shore of Lake Superior, the game in Duluth was at its peak. That was back when Bill Olson started playing in 1973, barely a teenager.

“I started at 13 at Ordean Jr. High School,” said Olson, 56. “That was when they had fastpitch in the junior high schools. There were a lot of good teams in my era.”

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Ultimate competitor Dan Nessler twice a Hall of Famer

Sunday, December 11th, 2016
DAN NESSLER of Happy Chef covers second base during the 1995 ISC World Tournament in which Happy Chef finished fifth. Nessler was selected an All-World player four times and was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo By BOB OTTO

DAN NESSLER of Happy Chef covers second base during the 1995 ISC World Tournament in which Happy Chef finished fifth. Nessler was selected an All-World player four times and was inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame in 2009. Photo By BOB OTTO

MANKATO, Minn. – With a grunt and a leap, the pitcher hurls the softball from 46 feet, causing the violently spinning missile to jump or plunge a foot just before crossing home plate and slamming into the catcher’s mitt at 85 miles per hour.

The degree of difficulty of hitting such a frustratingly elusive projectile?

Nearly impossible for batsmen of modest ability. But for the very best, an improbability they handle with great aplomb.

Mark Sorenson was one of the best, as was Bill Boyer, Shawn Rychcik and Colin Abbott. This esteemed class also includes Dan Nessler of Mankato, Minnesota.

Nessler was a magician with the bat from the left-side batters box. He played small-ball as well as anyone, said pitcher Pete Sandman, a teammate with Nessler on the world championship Penn Corp teams of Sioux City, Iowa.

“Dan was a great hitter,” said Sandman, who pitched for Penn Corp and later National Health Care Discount (NHCD) from 1981 to 1991. “He was smart, could slap, drag bunt, hit balls to left, center or right. He was gifted with the bat.”

    ACCLAIMED PLAYER AND LEADER

With the likes of Sandman, Nessler, Sorenson and Boyer leading a stable of stars, Penn Corp / NHCD won four (1988, ’89, ’91, ’92) International Softball Congress World Tournament championships. During that reign, Nessler made ISC All-World twice.

Interspersed in those Penn Corp years, Nessler also played for Happy Chef of Mankato, helping the team finish fifth in the 1995 ISC World Tournament, and claiming the ASA Class A National Championship the same year.

During the Happy Chef years, Nessler earned two ISC All-World honors (1985, 1992), along with being selected ASA Second-Team, All-American.

Nessler took over as player / manager in 1992. A post he held for 10 years. He was a leader and an example to the younger players, said former infielder Scott Christensen, a three-time ISC All-World player with Happy Chef.

“He was always thinking about game situations and our strengths and what the other team might do,” said Christensen. “He was a very intelligent player who could anticipate and be in the right place to make a play. You can’t teach that. He could adapt (at bat) and bunt or hit the other way.”

DAN NESSLER played in 16 ISC World Tournaments. In the four world tournaments in which he was selected All-World, he batted .407 with 15 runs and nine RBI. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

DAN NESSLER played in 16 ISC World Tournaments. In the four world tournaments in which he was selected All-World, he batted .407 with 15 runs and nine RBI. Photo By BOB OTTO / 1995 ISC World Tournament

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USA Junior Men’s Softball Team Faces Big Challenge In Australia

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

JustinPerez Justin Perez of Northeast, Pennsylvania leadsTeam USA in hitting, but Perez and his teammates will have to score some runs in order to get by a strong Australia team in a matchup of teams with 3-1 records in Wednesday night’s premiere game in the WBSC Junior Men’s World Championship.

MIDLAND, Mich. – The United States and Australia Junior Men’s (age 19-under) National Fastpitch Softball Teams both have 3-1 records in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) World Championship in Midland (July 24-30).

But that will change tonight. The two ball clubs will meet at 10 p.m. (ET) at Emerson Park with the winner having a huge advantage in the playoffs. The winner will emerge with a guaranteed double-life, while the loser will be limited to single elimination.

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USA! USA! USA!

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

By Jim Rueda / Mankato Free Press
jrueda@mankatofreepress.com

MANKATO, Minn. – It’s not your typical summer job. In fact, it’s not even a paid position.

But for three south-central Minnesota natives, it’s a unique opportunity.

Steve Nessler of Mankato, Jeff Lewis of Amboy and Isaac Hormann of Norwood Young America have been named to the USA Men’s Junior (under-19) fastpitch team which begins play at the International Softball Federation World Championships later this month.

Steve Nessler’s dad, Dan Nessler, who was recently named the head coach of the Bethany Lutheran women’s softball program, will serve as an assistant coach for the team.

“I’m excited,” said Lewis, the youngest of the three players at 17. “My dad was a big fastpitch player and so was my brother, so I’ve been around it my whole life. I look at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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Softballife soon to offer fastpitch hitting and pitching videos

Monday, July 13th, 2015

softballife

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – Former fastpitch player and ISC Hall of Famer, Dan Nessler, has started an informative Facebook page entitled Softballife – a community page about softball. Softball Life has become quite popular with over 20,000 visits so far.

And about Sept. 1st look for instructional hitting and pitching videos that Nessler plans on producing to help aspiring and current fastpitch players improve their game.

To learn more, visit: Softballife Facebook.

The Fenstermachers carry on the legacy of the fastpitch family

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
The Fenstermacher fastpitch family of sons Zac, left,  and Jacob, daughter Maia, with father Bart.

The Fenstermacher fastpitch family of sons Zac, left, and Jacob, daughter Maia, with father Bart.

KUTZTOWN, Penn. – Throughout the history of men’s fastpitch, fathers have brought their sons into the sport. And it’s still happening across the country today – generation upon generation.

In Idaho, there’s the Alders, with father Greg and son Shane anchoring the Boise RiverDogs. And into Washington, we find Dan Kolda and his three sons Rick, Mike and Ryan playing together on K-Club.

Heading northeast into Minnesota, we learn that Duke Nessler introduced his three boys to fastpitch in the 1970s – Jeff, Randy and Dan. And now Dan has his son Steven playing who is a member of the USA Junior Men’s National Team.

Winding our way south into Missouri we meet Eric Lewis, who with his sons Craig and Jacob, have won ASA boys’ national championships.

And traveling east to Kutztown, Pennsylvania, we come upon the Fenstermachers. As with the Alders and Koldas, Lewis’s and Nesslers, the Fenstermachers is a family with a distinguished fastpitch legacy.

Father Bart, 47, brought his boys Zac, 25, and Jacob, 22, into the sport when they were young boys. And eagerly waiting to join her dad and brothers is three-year-old Maia.

Zac Fenstermacher, 25, at shortstop helped the Bedford Rays finish third in the 2014 NAFA World Series, A-Division.

Zac Fenstermacher, 25, at shortstop helped the Bedford Rays finish third in the 2014 NAFA World Series, A-Division.

Proud of their kids’ venture into the fastpitch game? You bet say mother Erin and Bart.

“It’s awesome to have the opportunity to travel and play a sport you love and spend time with your boys,” said Bart, who began playing fastpitch at 22. “(They) started as pinch runners on some of my teams, and Zac had his first at bat when he was 14 years old.”

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Minnesota loses fastpitch legend Leroy Jolstad

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Jolstad.Leroy.5web
Leroy Jolstad shown in a mid-1990s photo, was one of Minnesota’s greatest fastpitch softball pitchers, spanning a career that lasted five decades. Jolstad passed away on Sunday, Aug. 25 at the age of 64. Happy Chef media guide contributed photo

MARSHALL, MINN – Minnesota has a celebrated history of producing great men’s fastpitch softball pitchers. There’s Al DeWall and Dutch Elbers; Johnny Vollmer and Dale Root; Ron “BoBo” Johnson and Don Olson.

But perhaps the greatest of all was Leroy Jolstad.

Jolstad stood tall on the rubber, an imposing figure at 6-foot-5. He threw hard and his explosive drop ball – his signature pitch – was among the best in the sport.

“Leroy never had a great change up or even a great rise ball,” said Dan Nessler, a teammate of Jolstad’s on Mankato Happy Chef for several years in the 1980s and ‘90s. “He did however have a great drop ball and could spot it where he wanted. People knew what they were getting most of the time and he still got them out. I didn’t see all of (Minnesota’s best pitchers) throw, but from what I saw, Leroy is at the top of the list locally.”

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Dan Nessler inducted into International Softball Congress Hall of Fame

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

(In 1976, I was fortunate to be on the same St. James Band Box team with Jeff Nessler, Dan’s brother. Jeff was a gifted shortstop who went on to play for Mankato Happy Chef for several years.)

Mankato Happy Chef star (was) honored at 2009 ISC World Tournament

By Chad Courrier / Mankato Free Press

MANKATO, MN — When Dan Nessler was a high-school kid playing fastpitch softball in his hometown of St. James, he never gave any thought to being inducted into a hall of fame.

But when his playing days ended in 2000, he started to look at his accomplishments and those of his various teams and realized how blessed he’d been…

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