RCTC baseball ready for conference play

The Rochester Community and Technical College baseball team is 15-6 on the season after splitting a doubleheader with Iowa Central Community College this week, winning the opener 7-4 before dropping the nightcap 5-3.

The Yellowjackets will play back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids on Saturday, April 18, before returning home to face St. Cloud Technical and Community College on Sunday. Rochester head coach Steve Hucke said the Jackets will face some good competition this year in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 12th season with the school, and sports a 228-208 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 13th season with the school, and sports a 240-230-1 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

“Our conference is split into north and south divisions,” said Hucke, “and the south division is really competitive. St. Cloud Tech (Sunday’s opponent, weather permitting) has been to the Junior College World Series two of the last three years; we’ve been to the World Series, Riverland Community College in Austin has been to the World Series, so the southern part of the state is very competitive.”

Pitching is a big key to the success of the Yellowjackets so far.

 

 

The pitching staff can strike batters out consistently, but recently have been putting the ball in play and letting their fielders make plays behind them.

“It’s gone back and forth, like earlier this week, it was more about putting the ball in play and letting the defense play behind them,” said Hucke. “We’re getting good help defensively, and I think the pitchers are throwing with more confidence and not afraid to attack hitters because we’re making the routine plays as well as some big plays too.”

The Jackets don’t have a lot of experience up and down this spring’s roster.

“We’re a young team with a lot of freshmen out there,” said Hucke, “But they’ve adapted pretty well and are starting to step up their game more. They’ve got a good confidence level going now.”

“Usually, we have a good mix of sophomores to go with freshmen,” said Hucke. “We usually have about 12 to 15 sophomores and about that same amount of freshmen on the roster. Unfortunately, we had a few kids decide to go somewhere else and not play baseball and just go to school. Now, we’re down to seven sophomores, and of that seven, I’d say four are our main contributors.”

The 2015 Yellowjackets roster features players from southeast Minnesota, as well as Iowa, and even as far away as New York.

“We get kids from this area as well as around Rochester,” said Hucke. “I’m originally from Iowa and I get some players from there, and we get some kids from Wisconsin. We have a few kids from the Twin Cities, and even a couple from New York, wherever we can find them.”

Pitching and defense are strengths of the team, but Hucke said the offense is going pretty well too.

“We’re batting over 300 as a team,” said Hucke. “We’re getting a lot of good quality at-bats, moving guys over and getting them into scoring position. In situational hitting, we’re doing very well. We put a lot of pressure on  RCTC baseballdefenses by having guys on base all the time.”

“We’re going deep into the count too,” said Hucke, “and making pitchers pitch well and not chasing bad pitches. When you have a young group and can get those kinds of at-bats, you’re successful. With freshmen, you’re always worried about them coming in and being free swingers and falling back into bad habits.”

Hucke talked about Saturday’s opponent and what they’ll see from Anoka-Ramsey:

 

 

 

 

 

Rochester Honkers Add Nevada Wolfpack Outfielder to Roster

The Rochester Honkers Baseball Club announced today the signing of 6-foot-3, 195-pound outfielder and first baseman Cole Krzmarzick (Kra-mar-Chick) from the University of Nevada for the 2015 season.

Krzmarzick, a native of Las Vegas, Nev. enters his freshman season as a member of the Wolfpack.  In 2014 he graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev. and committed to play baseball for Nevada the summer before his senior season. Krzmarzick also was recruited by BYU, San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara and Utah.

Cole Krzmarzick is a University of Nevada baseball player who signed with the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League (Photo from sleepyeyeonline.com)

Cole Krzmarzick is a University of Nevada baseball player who signed with the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League (Photo from sleepyeyeonline.com)

In his senior season at Bishop Gorman, he batted a team-best .590 with 46 hits, 58 runs scored, and 41 RBIs in 78 at bats. His 58 runs scored led the state of Nevada.

In his senior season at Bishop Gorman, he batted a team-best .590 with 46 hits, 58 runs scored, and 41 RBIs in 78 at bats. His 58 runs scored led the state of Nevada. Krzmarzick was selected as an All-Sunset Region player, a member of the  ABCA/Rawlings High School All-America Team, and was among the top two in most offensive categories his final high school season.

The Rochester Honkers 22nd season begins on May 26th when the Mankato MoonDogs bark into Mayo Field for a 7:05pm first pitch.  Season Tickets,Bonus Books, Suites and Patios are now available. Call the Rochester Honkers office at 507-289-1170 for more information.  The Honkers are also looking for host families for the 2015 season and ask all interested parties to call the business office for more information.

The Rochester Honkers play summer league baseball in the Northwoods League (photo from rcvb.org)

The Rochester Honkers play summer league baseball in the Northwoods League (photo from rcvb.org)

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The Rochester Honkers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 22nd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2015, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (BOS) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website.  For more information, visit www.rochesterhonkers.com

The day Sleepy Eye met Babe Ruth in 1922

Major League Baseball is getting into the stretch run of its 2014 season.   We love our baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet, as the old song goes. The American pastime is featured in many of the countries biggest cities, and occasionally, some of our smaller cities and towns too.

All the way back in 1922, one of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars showed up in one of America’s smallest cities. A fellow by the name of George Herman Ruth, affectionately known as Babe, made an appearance in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, an event they still talk about today.

Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel pose for a picture before a barnstorming game in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, in 1922 (Photo courtesy of the Brown County Historical Society)

Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel pose for a picture before a barnstorming game in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, in 1922 (Photo courtesy of the Brown County Historical Society)

Life was a lot different for the biggest Major League Baseball stars back then. There were no multi-million dollar salaries, and money was only just beginning to flow into baseball, as it was the only major pro sports league of its time.

Babe Ruth was one of the reasons money had begun to flow into Major League Baseball. In March of 1922, he signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees for 52,000 dollars. His reason for signing that contract? “He wanted to make a grand a week,” said Randy Krzmarzik, a Sleepy Eye resident who’s written a couple in-depth articles on the Babe’s visit to the area.

Ruth, like many major leaguers of hid time, would conduct what he called “barnstorming” trips. “Up to that point, he was making more money on the trips than he was in baseball,” said Krzmarzik.   “He continued to barnstorm, even after signing the contract, because it was so lucrative,” said Krzmarzik. “Plus, I think he was someone who really enjoyed getting out, and the idea of sitting around doing nothing during the offseason, when he could be out making money, meeting people, and hitting home runs, was too good to pass up.”

No one is sure how the tiny town of Sleepy Eye got on the same barnstorming schedule as bigger towns like Denver, Kansas City, and Omaha. “It’s always been a little bit of a mystery,” said Krzmarzik. “I’ve never really found something that said this is the specific reason.“ There seem to have been a couple different theories floating around since then.

One theory involved the Knights of Columbus. Krzmarzik said, “One rumor is that some of the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus got involved in attracting Ruth to Sleepy Eye.” Ruth was a Catholic, and was said to be fond of the local KC chapters that honored him in New York.

The Herald-Dispatch newspaper at that time was quick to credit the local business community. The paper was quick to praise the “alertness of the Sleepy Eye businessmen” for securing the visit of the stars.

In addition to the Babe, the barnstorming tour included his teammate, Bob Meusel. They left for the tour on October 11, the day after that year’s World Series finished up.

The stop in Sleepy Eye was initially intended to be a for-profit venture. Krzmarzik said, “The stars were to receive the first 2,000 dollars of the gate receipts, less a war tax.” Anything after that was to go to the event promoters for profit.

Randy Krzmarzick of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, has written articles on Babe Ruth’s visit to Sleepy Eye back in 1922 (Photo courtesy of SleepyEyeOnline.com)

Randy Krzmarzick of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, has written articles on Babe Ruth’s visit to Sleepy Eye back in 1922 (Photo courtesy of SleepyEyeOnline.com)

The promoters were hoping for a big turnout, and installed temporary seating all the way down the foul lines. They were hoping for a crowd of up to 10,000, or at least a large turnout if the October weather would cooperate. It did not.

The big day was set for Monday, October 16. As the sun began to rise, temperatures were sitting at a low of 27 degrees, with a bitter Northwest wind blowing, and the first snow flurries of the year riding the air currents.

The Brown County Journal newspaper said, “There was no guarantee of a minimum payment to the stars, so Babe and Bob gambled against the weather conditions, popularity, etc., and lost at Sleepy Eye.” Krzmarzik said, “It may not have been a money-making event, but it still was a memorable day for those who braved the weather.”

About 500 people showed up at the event, some coming from as far away as the Twin Cities and Marshall.

After an all-night train ride from Omaha, the stars were greeted by a very chilly band, and presented a key to the city by then Sleepy Eye Mayor Fialka.

After all the festivities wrapped up it was time to play baseball with the Yankee stars. Babe and Bob played on different teams, with some of the best players around southern Minnesota were enlisted to fill out the teams. Krzmarzik said, “Local Brown County players included Wally Cady of Comfrey, Art Mach and Roy Black from Springfield, Bill Born Roy Borchert of New Ulm, and Noel Hoffmann and Len Current of Sleepy Eye.”

Ruth showed his baseball versatility, playing right field, then second base, and lastly, pitched the ninth inning. His forte, as baseball fans know, was hitting. He hit two long home runs off Sleepy Eye’s town team pitcher Sylvester “Sox” Schueller. The New Ulm Review said the home runs were, “Wicked liners and not rising more than 50 feet off the ground.”

Schueller was quoted years later as saying, “He hit those balls so hard, they still ain’t found them yet!” Krzmarzik said someone claimed to have found one of the baseballs after the game. “There was somebody that claimed to have a ball Babe hit, but I don’t know if we can prove that,” said Krzmarzik. “Where the actual home runs ended up, I have no idea.

Meusel played left field for the other team and went hitless. Ruth’s team wound up winning the game by a 9 to 7 score.

After the game, Ruth and his entourage attended a banquet at Saint Mary’s High school auditorium, which is now the second floor of the elementary school. Then, they held a dance at the Standard Opera House, above where the palace is now. The Yankee stars then hopped on a train for Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and another game the next day.

The visit to Sleepy Eye must have made an impression on the baseball legend. Krzmarzik said, “During an interview the next day, Ruth told a local reporter he couldn’t believe how many people came out to watch the game in Sleepy Eye because the weather was so cold and miserable.”

Here is a link to a very good story done by Fox Sports on the Babe’s visit to Sleepy Eye:

http://www.foxsports.com/north/video/remembering-babe-ruth-s-visit-sleepy-eye-minn-071014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 in Northwoods League baseball

Over 1,500 baseball fans showed up to see the Rochester Honkers beat the Eau Claire Express by a 7-1 score in Northwoods League baseball on Friday night in Rochester.

Over 1,500 people begin filling up the seats at Mayo Field in Rochester, where the hometown Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods Leage baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Over 1,500 people begin filling up the seats at Mayo Field in Rochester, where the hometown Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods Leage baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

The team managers meet the umpires to exchange lineups before the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

The team managers meet the umpires to exchange lineups before the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

After a scoreless first inning, the hometown Honkers erupted for five runs in the bottom of the second to open up an early lead.  Jeff Campbell drove in a run with a double to left field, and Alex Schultz came up with the biggest hit of the game, a bases loaded double to center field that drove in three.  Schultz, the Honkers centerfielder, went two for four on the night, upping his season average to .353, and scored a run as well. Right-hander Spencer Greer got the start on the mound for Rochester, pitching the first six innings without allowing a run.  Greer, a six-six hard thrower, allowed only three Express hits, striking out four, and walking one.  Greer got the win in his first start of the season, and Ryan Fritze went the last three innings, picking up his first save of the season

Righthander Spencer Greer threw six scoreless innings, helping the Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field (Photo by Chad Smith)

Righthander Spencer Greer threw six scoreless innings, helping the Rochester Honkers beat Eau Claire 7-1 on Friday night at Mayo Field (Photo by Chad Smith).

The only Eau Claire run came in the top of the seventh inning on a solo homerun by Express first baseman Tyler Hermann off of Fritze. Right-handed pitcher Andy Davis got the start for Eau Claire, and was roughed up in only two innings of work.  Davis gave up five runs, all earned, on only four hits. Many of the Rochester fans stuck around after the game for a postgame fireworks show at Mayo Field.

Rochester’s Alex Schultz awaits the first pitch to open Friday night’s game against Eau Claire in Northwoods League baseball.  Schultz went 2-4, with 3 rbi’s and a run scored, helping the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester’s Alex Schultz awaits the first pitch to open Friday night’s game against Eau Claire in Northwoods League baseball. Schultz went 2-4, with 3 rbi’s and a run scored, helping the Honkers beat the Express 7-1 on Friday night in Rochester (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Honkers mascot Slider entertains the crowd during a Rochester win over the Eau Claire Express 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods League baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Honkers mascot Slider entertains the crowd during a Rochester win over the Eau Claire Express 7-1 on Friday night in Northwoods League baseball (Photo by Chad Smith)

Rochester Manager Matt Bowman, in his first year as bench boss for the team, spoke after the game about a solid 7-1 win by his squad:

Honker Highlights from Chad Smith on Vimeo.

Rochester Honkers readying for 21st baseball season

Tom Hanks once said, “There’s no crying in baseball!”  The quote came from the 1992 hit movie “A League Of Their Own.”  According to Dan Litzinger, the General Manager of the Rochester Honkers baseball team, there’s no offseason in baseball either.

The Rochester Honkers turn 21 this year (Photo courtesy of silver tree.com)

The Rochester Honkers turn 21 this year (Photo courtesy of silver tree.com)

 

The team roster is full.  The coaching staff is ready.  The Northwoods League schedule in set in stone.  The Honkers are putting the final front office preparations in place for the season opener on May 27, at Mayo Field in Rochester.

 

Finding players

 

“We could probably fill out four full teams by November 1, with all the applications that come in,” said Litzinger.  That’s a big change from when the team first formed back in 1994.

 

 

In addition to the applications process, Litzinger said the Honkers coaches double as a scouting staff.  “Our coaches are college coaches, so they’ve seen players, and they’re seeing players.  He said they have a good idea of which players they’re interested in.

A close play at third base (photo from rochestercvb.org)

A close play at third base (photo from rochestercvb.org)

 

“We have relationships with college coaches all over the country.  They know us, so they’re calling and saying hey, I’ve got these two or three guys I want to send up your way.  They want to know what our roster looks like and what needs we have,” said Litzinger.  “Coaches will tell us we’ve always taken care of them, so they want to take care of us.”

 

He said they do call up coaches across the country and inquire about players that might be good enough to be on the team’s roster.  Litzinger said it’s “a lot to weed through as we try to put the best team we can out on the field.”

 

The Northwoods League

 

According to the Northwoods League official website, the League formed back in 1994, and billed itself as a league of “all-star” teams of college players.  Litzinger described the purpose of the Northwoods League in his own words:

 

He said the league runs on major-league specifications.  “We use wooden bats.  Our umpires come from umpire schools, so they’re trying to make the big leagues as well, said Litzinger.  “Everything we do mimics the minor league experience, so that’s how we prepare some of these kids to make the jump”

The Northwoods League requires it’s teams to use wooden bats to mirror major league baseball games (photo by usatoday.com)

The Northwoods League requires it’s teams to use wooden bats to mirror major league baseball games (photo by usatoday.com)

 

Ten years ago, he said the players would face a challenge adjusting to wooden bats after years of playing with aluminum bats, but that’s not the case anymore.  “With the recent changes in aluminum bats, the adjustment comes quicker,” said Litzinger. “They’re trying to make aluminum bats act more like wooden bats, plus more and more kids coming out of junior colleges across the country play with wooden bats now.”

 

Litzinger said the biggest adjustment is getting used to each other:

 

 

2013 season was rough

 

“Trying,” was the word that Litzinger used to describe the 2013 season.  The Honkers finished the summer with a 28-42 record, 23 games out of first place in the North Division.

 

“It was one of our worst on-field performances ever.  We got hit by injuries.  We got hit by the Major League draft.  It happens to everybody, but last year was especially difficult,” said Litzinger.  “We just didn’t mesh right away.  I thought we looked good on paper, but, that’s paper.”

 

The Honkers had several players taken in the June Major League draft, going anywhere from rounds 25 to 40.  Litzinger said they aren’t getting much money at that point when they sign their first contract, but asks, “How do you tell a kid no?  How do you kill a kid’s dream?”

 

“You want some of your guys to get drafted, because that means you’re signing the right kind of players.  You just don’t know the mental aspect of who’s going to sign, and who isn’t,” said Litzinger.  “It’s tough to replace that kind of talent in June.”

 

2014 season approaching

 

The Northwoods League teams bring in top college talent from all over the country, and Litzinger said the quality of baseball is outstanding.  “It’s a Division 1 conference game every night, and it can get to be a grind.”

 

“Guys have to step up their level of competition,” said Litzinger.  “How do you get through 72 tough games in a summer?  There are going to be slumps, and players have to decide how they’re gonna get through it because that’s what they’ll need to do in pro ball.”

 

“Players can’t be out until two in the morning.  You have to get up and you have to do your work.  Players have to eat right, and they have to get the proper amount of sleep,” said Litzinger.

 

He said, “All they have to do is concentrate on baseball, work on their skills, and have a little fun too.”

Fans young and old can attend Honkers games (photo from circledrivedental.com)

Fans young and old can attend Honkers games (photo from circledrivedental.com)

 

The Honkers open the season May 27, with a home game at Mayo Field in Rochester against the Waterloo Bucks, North Division

champions from 2013.  First pitch will be at 7:05.  For more information on ticket packages, check out the website at http://northwoodsleague.com/rochester-honkers.