Odin men’s fastpitch softball

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Love for the game keeps fastpitch alive in Odin

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Bob Otto / Writer & Photographer

ODIN, MN – Lou Heller admits that his body aches more than it once did. And that his rise and drop ball pitches don’t “pop” as hard into his catcher’s mitt as they once did.

But never-the-less, the 55-year-old Heller’s love for the sport hasn’t faded as he continues on in his 40th year of playing fastpitch softball. And all 40 of those years Heller has played for only one team and one town: Odin, Minnesota.

Heller’s 40-year playing career is remarkable. But even more impressive is Odin’s legacy in the sport. 2009 marks the 59th consecutive year of men’s fastpitch softball in the little village with a population of 125 located in the southwestern part of the state.

And the Heller name has been linked with the team for most of Odin’s impressive run. Before Lou, another Heller graced the lone softball diamond in Odin: Lou’s older brother Gerry.

“Odin has had a fastpitch softball team every year since 1950,” said Bob Harder, a retired Odin player himself. Harder is also the part-time game announcer and team’s historian. He has kept detailed records of the team’s and its players’ exploits over the years. “Gerry has played for Odin since 1968,” Harder said. “He has played for the team for 37 of those 59 years.”


Since 1968, Lou and Gerry have a combined 87 years of lacing up the spikes for Odin men’s fastpitch. And before Gerry and Lou, their dad, Gerald, played in the 1950s. And both had sons who played for a while with their dads. That’s three generations of Hellers wearing the Odin colors for over 100 years.

While other teams in southern Minnesota have folded, Odin continues to survive. Well, not just survive. But thrive. Thrived as in claiming state championships and playing in many Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) national tournaments.

Harder’s records reveal some amazing numbers: From 1972 through 2008, Odin has played in the Minnesota state ASA tournament for 36 consecutive years. And in 1978 and 1982, Odin took home the state championship trophies.

Along with those two state championships, Odin has also claimed two runner-up spots; two thirds; and five fourth place finishes. And during an 18 year period from 1977 to 1994, Odin carved out an enviable 240-43 record in league play, winning 17 league championship during that incredible run.

And in 2007 Odin finished second in the 32-team NAFA “A” Major World Series Championship at Des Moines, Iowa with a 6-2 record. And Lou Heller was named as a first team All World pitcher. And his pitching partner, Justin Davis, claimed the Most Valuable Pitcher award.

So how is it that this little village with but a few streets nestled in a grove of trees in the middle of thousands of acres of corn and soybean fields survive and thrive in the sport?

While cities, such Long Beach, Lakewood, Riverside, and San Bernardino, California – with millions in population from which to choose and hone ball players – have seen men’s fastpitch wither and die?


Odin fastpitch carries on, say Harder and Heller, because of the commitment of a few outstanding men. Outstanding leaders, who refused to allow the team to fold.

“Lou (Heller) has kept it going by managing and pitching,” Harder said. “But there are many people responsible for keeping it going. Vern Meyers was the player / manager for most of the 1950s. And during the 1960s Butch Nordby was a player / manager and he was responsible for keeping it going and playing for 21 years.”

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