WORTHINGTON -- When Josh Wasmund retires at the end of the 2019 amateur baseball season, chances are that the Worthington Cubs will simply move on. Nothing remains forever, especially in the amateur ranks. Turnover happens yearly on the teams, and every season means a new start and a fresh dose of optimism. Players come, players go.
Years ago, however, it would have been difficult to imagine a summer season without the longtime Cub being a part of it. Wasmund, 37, has been a team leader for many years, and the idea that he’ll walk away later this summer sounds somewhat like the end of an era.
His initial year with the Cubs was 2002, after he’d finished his first year at Minnesota West Community and Technical College. The team had about five really good players then, remembers Wasmund, and most of the rest came on board just to complete the squad. There have been lean years, and a couple of times since then the team disbanded, only to come together again.
This year’s Cubs have lost 11 straight games to start the season. But only three years ago, in 2016, they qualified for the Minnesota Class C amateur state tournament. They won 19 of their first 20 contests.
“That was the best team I ever played on,” Wasmund said this week as he looked back on his career.
The slugging first baseman compiled 17 years in an amateur baseball uniform, mostly with the Cubs but also for short stints with Heron Lake and Wilmont when Worthington didn’t field an amateur team. He also managed the Cubs for several years.
It’s not old age or tired muscles that led to Wasmund announcing his retirement.
“It’s the other commitments,” he said. “I think I could play a few more years, but I coach my son’s WAYBA baseball team and his summer hockey, too.”
Wasmund believes that a baseball player should commit fully to his team, and he knew that he couldn’t commit to it like he had in the past.
“My whole career, I probably missed two games in 16 years. And last year I had to miss maybe four games. That was hard. I feel I should be at all of them, even if I’m not the manager anymore. The way I play, I feel I should be at all of them,” he said.
Throughout his career, Wasmund was respected for the way he approached the game, both as a manager and as a player. You’d never see him make a mental mistake in the field. At the plate, he was a solid right-handed run-producer in the middle of the lineup, with a hard and firm swing that could at any time send a fastball over the fence.
“I feel like I’m an aggressive hitter. I’ll swing at more balls than I will watch strikes, but I still take walks when they’re there,” he said.
His proudest moment occurred in 2016.
“We showed up at every game. And everybody on the team could play baseball. We hit .348 as a team and our fourth pitcher had an ERA under three,” he said.
Wasmund also had a remarkable season personally.
He recalled: “I had more home runs (7) than strikeouts (5) that year.”
Josh and his wife Kristi have four kids -- one son and three daughters. Josh says jokingly that he hopes Kristi will enjoy having him at home more often next summer, but he adds, “Maybe she’ll be sick of me being around so much, too.”
Not many years ago, he said he never wanted to quit the game he loves. But for every dedicated ballplayer, the day eventually must come.
“I’m gonna miss it. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. But kind of, the struggles that this season has been, it’ll probably be a little bit easier,” he said.
Mostly, he’s going to miss the competition -- the little battles within the game.
“Anything can happen,” he said. You can be down 0-2 (in the count) and hit a ball over the fence. You can be ahead 3-0 and be back to the dugout in three more pitches.”