River Falls Days is here! Quite possibly my favorite weekend of the year. There are many guides to festivals and insider tips - here is our guide to enjoying Fish Baseball to its fullest during this great weekend of the year!
Wednesday night – the Fish take on the New Richmond Millers. The Millers and Fish always seem to play a close game, so for this one make sure to grab two cold Leinie’s from the Lodge. You’ll have the first one as your opener to RF Days – sure, The Greatest Show on the Kinni doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but you’ve got my permission to pregame! You’ll need that second one to calm your nerves when it’s inevitably a one-run game in the 9th.
Thursday – there’s no Fish Baseball this day. So go do all your RF Days things – garage sales, the carnival with the kiddos, and there is even a Yoga and Healthy Eating class so you can stretch out and figure out how not to have that Wednesday beer next time. The legion team has a game here at the Bank that evening, and then the fireworks (MOVED TO THURSDAY THIS YEAR, TELL YOUR FRIENDS!) will be at Hoffman Park at Dusk!
Friday – First, look for your local Fighting Fish team in the parade! They put our towards the front – we’re in the 30s somewhere – but make sure to set up early in the route because the team has to make an 8pm start. If the line moved too slow, the Fish Float will be pull off the route to make it to the park by 7:15pm. J Then, the Fish take on the St. Paul Hops at 8pm – insider information is that the starting pitcher for RF will be none other than The Jaxin Larson. Why is this special? It’s very special tonight because Jaxin is being deployed with his unit to Afgahnistan next week, so that will make this his last appearance in Fish Orange for 2019 as he trades it in for Cammo. Not only come support the Fish, but come support Jaxin – a kid with a great attitude who is the epitome of what the Fish are about!
Saturday – Saturday night is more league action – the Fish take on their Highway 29 Rivals, the Spring Valley Hawks. This is another key SCVBL league game (see standings below) and it starts at 7:00pm. No insider info for this one – just should be a good baseball game!
During the day on Saturday – there is also an RF/UWRF alumni game at 3:00pm. They always need extra players, so just show up with your glove, tell them you played for UWRF, and make up a year. With no active baseball program at UWRF, no one will be able to verify you, or not, with Google.
Sunday – 1pm – another league game against the Ellsworth Hubbers. At this one bring your glove too, because we may be out of pitching at that point and taking volunteers from the crowd.
We sincerely hope you have a great River Falls Days weekend! Until next time, Go Fish!
This week’s post – the life of a town baseball player in River Falls.
I’ve been on a lot of teams over the years, from my hometown of Sunnyvale, CA all the way back here to River Falls and lots of little stops in between. What it meant to be a town baseball player was a little different in each place.
In some places, it’s little more than a rec league activity. Cookie-cutter city ballparks, no concession sales, the stands empty or just full of a few doting wives and girlfriends (begrudgingly, at times). The players come in with their gym bags, someone throws a lineup together on a napkin, the game gets over and players are straight to their cars. Batting practice? What’s batting practice?
In some places, it’s more like a high school team. The players take the game seriously, they spend some time debriefing afterward and show up for batting practice, but largely it’s about the baseball. They aren’t together off the field, it’s the same wives and girlfriends in the bleachers. These teams can be 1-25, win hardly any games, or 25-1, win almost all of them, but that’s strictly based on ability. They will play as well, or as poorly, as they are able to. Intangibles? What’s intangibles?
A team like the Fish is a little different. It’s important to note, before I run this down, they aren’t the only team in the SCVBL like this. I won’t name names, both those teams know who they are. Here’s the life of the Fish:
-signing autographs at an upcoming charity event
-90% player participation at the golf fundraiser – not just because it’s necessary, because it’s fun
-Joel Schaffer’s Meat Fest in August (ask him, he’ll probably invite you)
-putting on a pre-game youth clinic
-being part of the RF Days Parade
-filming a pep-talk video for a local 11-year old team during a rain delay
-young guys taking group post-game trips to McDonalds – old guys bringing their kids to the park
Those are just off the top of my head and upcoming events…we regret that, in fact, these guys aren’t paid, they do have day jobs, and on top of it they are mostly socially awkward goobers, so we can’t fill all the requests that come in through the team email.
At the end of the day, for our players it’s about the baseball too – they love it, they’re passionate about it, and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t make the kind of commitment it takes to play in a place like River Falls. But I am constantly proud of them for seeing the bigger picture and what our team can mean to the greater community in RF. That's the intangible part - it can inspire us to play above our talent level, it can't be coached, and it comes from you, the community.
Until next time, Go Fish!
It’s here – Bob Burrows Night! (Wednesday, June 5)
The idea from Bob Burrows night came on a calm Sunday afternoon this April at Johnnie’s Bar, following the annual Fish open tryout at Field of Dreams across the street. Each year, we have a prospective players reach out to us through the website (fishbaseball.org), and we work those guys out at FOD. Notable players that have come to us over the years from this process include current infielders Andy Metcalf and Matt Bacon, pitchers Rick Wells and Luke Meier, and a kid named Tanner Homme who played two career games. (Heckuva nice guy though!)
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This year, running into Bob just after tryouts finished, we mentioned that there didn’t seem to be any “keepers” that we at FOD that day – turned out to be a catch and release type of day. Bob joked, “Well, I should have tried out.” The collective eyebrows at the table raised, and the idea for Bob Burrows night was born.
We’re looking forward to Bob’s reflections on the night in an upcoming issue of the Journal. We’re happy to have fun with this tonight for a few reasons. First, if you’ve met Bob, he’s about the nicest, most genuine person you’ll find. There are people as nice and genuine, but not moreso. What Bob has done for our local sports scene over the years is top notch. If you played any competitive sports at the high school level, you probably remember the first time you saw your name in the newspaper and how that felt. What’s impressive is that he covers all sports with the same enthusiasm and zeal – I couldn’t guess which one is his favorite, other than saying “whichever one is in season.”
On a broader scale, what our local newspapers do for us as amateur baseball teams is so important. The reach of Facebook is only so far, and the media coverage is one of the things that separates us from beer league softball (no offense, many of us play that too!) and shows the community these games are being played at a high, competitve level. (Most days!)
So, Mr. Burrows, a tip of the cap to you from the Fish and from River Falls – no matter if you strike out tonight and hit a towering home run, you’re a larger than life hero to us.
Until next time, Go Fish!
Hot start! That’s the best way I can describe the 2019 Fish season so far. As we write, the team is 9-0, off to its best start in Fish history. Internally we’ve been saying that 34-0 would be cool, but totally unnecessary. This is baseball, after all – it’s a game of failure, and we expect to take some lumps…but right now things are way fun.
What is interesting about this team is that it has a really observable new “core” – amateur baseball is somewhat generational. This is the 12th season of Fish baseball, and a new core of players emerges every 4-5 years. There are always the mainstays and crusty old veterans who stick around (looking at you Josh, Joel, Brian, Doorny, and Gutt, ya bums!) but they are surrounded by a new group of college kids over time. Some of those college kids continue on to be crusty veterans themselves – others get jobs out of the area, have injuries, meet girlfriends who make them quit (TRAGEDY), or for other reasons stop playing. Here’s how the Fish roster history breaks down into eras:
2008-2011: The Original Townies: Gilbertson brothers, Giebel, Kempf, Gutting, and Stuessel era
2012-2016: The Professionals, Who We Love but Barely Knew Ye: Herum brothers, JP Feyereisen, Alex Call, Colin Pechacek, Brian Grove Era (catch them sooner than later on TV!)
2017-Current: The Generation Y-ers to Be Named Later: Luedtke, Trey Larson, and the band of roving Mitchells, Westons,Jaxins, and Dylans who followed
With each group, there has been a distinct personality and way they approach the game. For those of us who have been around too long, we’ve had the opportunity to see each group bring new energy and renewal to the team. What they have all had in common is a love for the game, a competitive drive, a love for River Falls, and willingness to play hard.
So far this season the current core of young players has really come together and come into their own – here in the GM’s office, we’re looking forward to seeing what they will accomplish!
As always, thanks for being a supporter of Fighting Fish baseball and welcome to our beautiful, volunteer-run ballpark. Until next time, Go Fish!