Though spring is late, it will get here and with a whole passel of new sports seasons. Perhaps no other sport than baseball embodies spring quite so much. And here in Central Minnesota, amateur baseball is strong, vibrant and growing.
"Central Minnesota has a rich tradition and history that does continue to this day," Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer recently told me. Bremer, a St. Cloud State graduate, added the base of amateur athletes, and those that follow the game at that level, have produced some of the biggest, and in his mind, some of the best Twins fans in the state.
Perhaps the best evidence of the status of Central Minnesota baseball is Bremer's own alma mater. The St. Cloud State Huskies are a top ten NCAA Division II program this season and over the last few years have piled success on success. Many integral parts of the Husky teams past and present have featured players from right here in our back yard.
Seven current members of the squad hail from MSC schools including seniors Phil Imholte and Steve Rindelaub from St. Cloud Cathedral High School, Senior Brian Hansen from Rocori and Senior Travis Cariveau from Sauk Rapids Rice. Those four alone have been a part of teams that set wins record each of the last two seasons.
The program moving forward will have a strong Central MN base. Sophomore Eric Loxtercamp(Rocori) has solidified himself as one of the best young players in the conference while Freshman pitcher Reese Gregory(Apollo) has burst onto the scene with strong performances. Junior Nick Maiers(Cathedral) will take over a leadership roll on the pitching staff next season.
As for the programs feeding the Huskies and other programs around the Upper Midwest, St. Cloud Cathedral has certainly led the charge when it comes to state tournament play. Legendary coach Bob Karn took the Crusaders to back to back title games, winning the crown in 2011-12. The last time the Crusaders failed to reach the state tournament, they were knocked out by...the Rocori Spartans. Last year Apollo, Sauk Rapids Rice, Cathedral and Rocori all one at least one sectional game last season.
The success of the game at the amateur level has been recent and sustained. All that just benefits all of us here in Central MN that get to enjoy the pure unadulterated past time, and do so at such a high level. So for all of us I give you two of the best words in the lexicon...