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A fastpitch family keeps the sport alive in Havre, Montana

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

2013champs2web The Gallery Lounge Fastpitch Club of Havre, Montana has won four ASA state championships and finished runner-up five times since 2005. Contributed Photo

HAVRE, Mont. – If half the Gallery Lounge Men’s Fastpitch Club seems to know each others inclinations on a softball diamond, there’s good reason: genetics.

The pitcher and the utility player are uncles to the catcher and shortstop; the first baseman is the father of the catcher and shortstop, and standing close by on the sidelines is the orchestrator of this band of family fastpitch fanatics – 79-year-old Russell Evans.

He’s better known as dad and grandpa and coach.

On the ball diamond, his son Gary, 49, pitches, son Rusty, 55, fills in where needed, son-in-law Cal Wirtzberger, 52, plays first base.

And there’s the apples of grandpa’s eyes: his grandsons, 27-year-old Patrick “Patch” Wirtzberger, the catcher, and his brother Danny, 30, at shortstop.

“I’ve always loved the game,” said Russ Evans, who began playing in the 1950s while growing up in Wanda, Minn. “I got the kids (Gary and Rusty) started and they got to liking it and then my two grandsons Dan and Patch wanted to play. It’s in our blood, I guess.”

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The big-time tournament in small town Havre, Montana

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

evans.wirtzbergers.1web Russell Evans, back row middle, with grandson Danny Wirtzberger, front left, great grandson Tripp, grandson Patch Wirtzberger (holding Montana State ASA Championship trophy), and son Gary. Contributed Photo

HAVRE, Mont. – In 1968 Russell Evans and a few fastpitch promoters came up with an idea to raise scholarship money by bringing some of the best men’s fastpitch talent in the world to Havre.

They hosted an international tournament that drew some of the best teams from Canada and the U.S. It turned out to be a huge success, lasting nearly 25 years until the mid-1990s.

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