Mankato Fastpitch

...now browsing by tag

 
 

Some of the greatest in Minnesota fastpitch history to receive the sport’s highest honor

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Meet the 2018 Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame class: Of these 19 slowpitch, modified and fastpitch inductees, 13 starred in the fastpitch game as either players, umpires, managers and coaches, promoters, sponsors, administrators, or in some cases, were involved in every facet of the game. Photo courtesy of Perry Coonce / Executive Director of the Minnesota Softball Federation

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. – Some like the late Walter Nelson were great fastpitch pitchers in leading their teams to state and regional championships. Others like Tom Niederkorn, Bill Olson and Dan Lee could belt the riser, drop and change-up as well as any hitter to ever step into the batter’s box.

And still others, made their mark in the sport in nearly every conceivable way possible. Including Jim Langowski and Jack Norman, who first excelled as players and then remained in the sport for years volunteering, managing, promoting and serving in any capacity needed in continuing the great legacy of Minnesota men’s fastpitch softball.

For the following 13 men, whose time in the game stretches as far back as six and seven decades, they will receive the highest honor possible in Minnesota softball lore: induction into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame during a ceremony banquet at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center, Nov. 2nd, under the direction of the Minnesota Sports Federation.

    Meet The Outstanding 2018 Hall of Fame Fastpitch Class
  • Wayne Dahl, player, from Dawson
  • Gary “Meatball” Holtz, player, Hutchinson
  • Dick Erickson, player, Dawson
  • Dan Huisman, player, Ellsworth
  • Charlie Johnson, umpire / meritorious service, Detroit Lakes & Hitterdahl
  • Jim Langowski, player, manager, promoter, meritorious service, Winona
  • Dan Lee, player, Dawson
  • Dick McNally, player, St. Charles & Ridgeway
  • *Walter Nelson, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Tom “Weed” Niederkorn, player, Hastings & St. Paul
  • Jack Norman, volunteer, organizer, meritorious service, Mankato & Lake Crystal
  • Bill Olson, player, Duluth
  • Jim Prestholdt, player, sponsor, manager, meritorious service, Dawson
  • Many superlatives were spoken about the inductees, including this accolade from Wayne Dahl and Ken Club, who led the nomination of Jim Prestholdt.

    “In his career as a pitcher, Jim won over 450 games,” said Dahl. “(He) was always organizing fastpitch leagues, teams and games at his own time and expense! He started a four-team league in Dawson (pop. 1,600). He would implore players to participate, and they would. Jim raised $20,000 in a week for a new concessions stand at Prestholdt Fields in Dawson…Jim also coached and mentored many developing players in the local league, particularly pitchers.”

    And this from Stan Knopick, who nominated Jim Langowski, who starred as a pitcher for 15 years in Minnesota and five in Northern California.

    “Jim was a great pitcher and fine hitter,” said Knopick. “But Jim was very active off the softball field also. He arranged tournaments, started the Winona Softball Association and was a manager for over 15 years in Minnesota and five in California. Jim organized tournaments, hired the umpires, took care of the media work, selected volunteers to help at games and tournaments, helped prepare the fields, and used his knowledge to mentor young softball players, both boys and girls.”

    And the tributes for the others are just as inspiring.

    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

    Click to continue reading “Ultimate competitor Dan Nessler twice a Hall of Famer”

    Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame

    Saturday, November 26th, 2016
    Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan's brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

    Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame members, Dan Nessler, left, and Craig Brown, who were inducted in 2016, and Jeff Nessler, Dan’s brother, who was inducted in 2004. Courtesy Photo

    St. James, Minn. – His speed wind-milling a softball? Average. His spin to make it rise, drop or curve? Good but not great. His physical stature? Not imposing.

    Craig Brown may not have had all the physical tools to become a great fastpitch pitcher. But what Brown did have speaks to the internal rather than the external.

    Call it what you may: guts, drive, intense desire. As his former teammates would attest, Brown possessed the one quality all great athletes have: a relentless will to win.

    No one knew Brown any better than Dennis Johnson, St. James’ softball statistician, historian, and devoted fan of the town’s fastpitch teams.

    “He was an intense competitor,” said Johnson, who holds memberships in the International Softball Congress and Minnesota Softball Federation hall of fames. “He wanted to prove that he could beat the good teams and prove his skeptics wrong. That motivated him. He just hated to lose.”

    Click to continue reading “Will to win boosts Craig Brown into Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame”

    NAFA World Series is showcase for men’s softball

    Saturday, August 13th, 2016

    NAFA.1lr

    By Shane Frederick sfrederick@mankatofreepress.com

    MANKATO, Minn. – As mayor of Mankato, Eric Anderson is happy to have the North American Fastpitch Association World Series back in the area.

    As a softball player, however, he’s thrilled.

    “The thing I personally like is it gives people a chance to come up here and see the game played,” Anderson said before taking the field for the Pub 500 team’s second game of the tournament Friday afternoon. “There’s an added benefit that a lot of people have come here and are staying in the area, but as the (men’s) game shows signs of dying out, people can come out and see some good fastpitch softball.”

    Click to continue reading “NAFA World Series is showcase for men’s softball”