MSF Softball Hall of Fame

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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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Hard throwing Stu Morrison inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
STUART MORRISON of Cloquet, Minn. pitched his way into the Minnesota Sports Federation Softball Hall of Fame by winning two state championships, one regional title and winning over 450 games with over 4,500 strikeouts in an 19 year career from 1963 to 1981. Courtesy Photo

STUART MORRISON of Cloquet, Minn. pitched his way into the Minnesota Sports Federation Softball Hall of Fame by winning two state championships, one regional title and winning over 450 games with over 4,500 strikeouts in an 19 year career from 1963 to 1981. Courtesy Photo

CLOQUET, Minn. – Softball backstops measure upwards of 20 feet high and wide. Even at those dimensions, corralling Stuart Morrison’s pitches often proved futile.

“When I first started pitching in 1963 there wasn’t a backstop in Minnesota that could hold me,” said Morrison with a laugh. “I didn’t know where the ball was going to go.”

Morrison started playing fastpitch as a sophomore in high school, only because he got cut from his high school baseball team. The Scanlon fire department invited him and several other young players to give fastpitch a try. Morrison did and was hooked.

    A PITCHER IS BORN

Although a good hitter, Morrison was intrigued by what he saw happening in the circle.

    “There was a good fastpitch league in Cloquet at the time,” he said. “I saw Craig Pollard pitching and I thought, ‘if he can do that, I’m going to give it a try.’”

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