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Here come the boys of spring
Five area high schools form mega-cooperative to field a baseball program

Area high schools resurrected spring baseball.

This move comes right when baseball seemed doomed to only be offered in the summer under the American Legion baseball moniker.

Broden Frolek of Lidgerwood couldn’t be happier to play spring ball since baseball is his favorite sport, he said, smiling. Frolek doesn’t care if baseball is played in spring or summer. If baseball is being offered, he will be on the field. He’s particularly pleased to play spring baseball during his senior year.

He credits a push by Lidgerwood Public School administration and teachers for jump-starting this sport. About 21 athletes — mostly seventh, eighth and ninth graders — make up this team that will play at the junior high and junior varsity level.

Their team name is a mouthful since Hankinson-Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah-Rosholt-Lidgerwood doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The acronym HFCTRL is slightly better. Will either even fit on their team jersey?

Coach Chad Wittner shrugs. The name is still a work in progress, he said. Wittner is leaving it up to the boys to come with their mascot name.

Until then the baseball team will be known as H-F-C-T-R-L, the same spring sports cooperative enjoyed by the girls fastpitch team these past few years.

Frolek said baseball had been on the cusp for years. Will they? Won’t they? Until this year, there just hadn’t been enough players to field a full team.

Matter of competition

Wittner said the decision was made to play at the JH and JV level so younger players wouldn’t be overwhelmed. He said it wasn’t a matter of being competitive since his team is willing and ready to compete against anyone.

It was a matter of adults curbing the athlete’s enthusiasm and putting the youngsters against teams closer to their ages.

“The administration is looking at protecting our younger kids and putting them out there against another team’s seasoned varsity roster,” Wittner said.

That makes sense to Frolek, he said, thinking the team might want to stay at this level for about two years.

“I think if we give it two years, then we will have four or five seniors. Until then, this will be a nice proving ground for our team,” Frolek continued.

Lidgerwood sophomore Preston Bohnenstingl said it would have been hard for younger players to take on veteran players. He pointed to Frolek, who has been his teammate at the American Legion level for years.

“Broden and I have been playing Legion ball since we were seventh graders so we can read the ball pretty well. But for some of these seventh and eighth graders, playing varsity wouldn’t have been a lot of fun,” Bohnenstingl said.

Early success on the field

The boys have been gelling, Wittner said, despite coming from five different schools. The boys are working together because they are happy just playing baseball, he said.

The team has early success on the field. With two games under them, H-F-C-T-R-L won both — 8-4 and 14-10 wins against Enderlin-Maple Valley.

Wittner isn’t surprised to have won these games because the boys have had a great attitude this season. What he does find surprising is their first practice outside was only one day before beating E-MV.

He saw nerves during the infield/outfield pre-game routine. But once the game started, his boys settled down and put together a solid game, Wittner said, who has a lot of talent on his roster. Primary pitchers at the varsity level will be Kaden Kelley, Frolek, Bohnenstingl and Bill Hermes. At the lower JH level will be Kaden Jelinek, Avery Koechney and Adam Baldwin.

Wittner grew up with this game, having played baseball for his dad at Cass Lake, Minnesota, then volunteered to help with the summer American Legion program when he was in college. He pulled his first head coach position for boys basketball in Minnesota before coming to Lidgerwood two years ago, he said.

Wittner has had as much fun as his team this spring season. While he considers himself “too old” to run around with his team on the baseball diamond, he gets out on the field to demonstrate motions he talks about practice.

Everyone agrees, this is the right time to resurrect spring baseball.

“It’s a blast getting to know the kids, finally getting outside and playing baseball in our full capacity,” Wittner said.