WORTHINGTON — (Note: Chet Meyer and his family made a long and lasting impact on the Windom athletic scene. Chet, whose late father Ron served as Windom High football coach for 20 years, was a star in multiple sports for the Eagles before graduating in 1986. He went on to play baseball at South Dakota State, where he was a three-time all-conference selection. Chet now lives with his family in Shakopee, where we caught up with him for our latest “Conversation With Scott.”)
Question: Hello Chet. First off I want to say I’m sorry about your dad (Ron died in May of 2019). What a great guy he was.
Answer: Thank you. Yes. Being a coach and teacher, he touched a lot of lives. He was a good role model for a lot of people, especially me.
Q: When you were a young boy, did you realize what a great athlete your dad was? (Ron played quarterback in the NFL for both the Bears and Steelers)
A: Not really, no. I think there was an article in the Worthington paper when I was in second grade or so, and the principal at the Windom school brought it to me into the classroom. That was kind of the first time I realized that my father had played professional football. And occasionally as I got older, and even to this day, if I’m in the Mankato mall or something a lot of times somebody will come up and say ‘Are you Ron Meyer’s son? He was one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever seen.’ It always makes me feel proud.
Q: Your father graduated Wells High School, correct?
A: Yes, in 1962.
Q: I know you were quite a baseball player. Did you also play football and basketball at Windom?
A: Yes. All three. In a small town, you know, you need to do that (laughs).
Q: Were you a quarterback, like your pop?
A: I was, yes. I started two years. I was a left-handed thrower, that was about the only difference between us (laughs).
Q: Did you have an opportunity to play football in college?
A: I actually had a little bit of interest, but football really wasn’t my favorite sport. I enjoyed playing it and being around the guys, but having some success in baseball as a team led me down that path.
Q: You were on two championship baseball teams for coach Dean Jaacks in 1984 and 1985, isn’t that right?
A: Yep. In 1983 we were second. I wasn’t on that team, but I was in ‘84 and ‘85. Then in 1986 when I was a senior we lost in the semifinals (of the state tournament) and ended up taking third place.
Q: Who were some of those buddies of yours and great ball players on those teams?
A: There were a lot of great players. Some guys who stuck out were Timm Gronseth, Mitch Kaiser, Kent Elness, Chad Lindaman, Jeff Schmidt -- they were all front-runner names. But we had a lot of good athletes. Anybody could step up at any time.
Q: What about coach Jaacks? I knew him well back in the day. What would you say about that tough son-of-a-gun?
A: (laughs) He’s an interesting guy. A great coach. We had fun in practice and we had fun in games. He was big on fundamentals. I was talking with my mom recently and telling her we didn’t know how good we were back then. It’s not like social media now where everything is available online. We were never overconfident or looked past any opponent. We wanted to play and play hard, and I think Dean and assistant coach Rich Elness were a big part of that. They kept us grounded.
Q: I know you set state-tournament records for most hits in a tourney (11) and for most consecutive hits (seven). Wow. What do you remember about that?
A: It helps to play in three state tournaments and go deep in all three. I’m not sure many high school players get that opportunity. The seven consecutive hits were in 1985, three vs. Tracy in the semifinals and four in the championship game against Eden Valley Watkins. Good timing, I guess.
Q: Pretty good hitter, I would guess.
Q: There have been so many great Windom baseball players. Guys like Mark Olsen and Bobby Elness were older than you?
A: Yes. They were great players and tremendous role models for us. That was a big part of the success we had back then in Windom. There were just so many great athletes before us.
Q: You bet. Guys like ‘Dodge’ (Mike Haugen) and Mike Jackson. I knew them.
A: For sure. I played a number of years with some of those older guys on the Windom Pirates.
Q: And even going back to athletes like Lew Olson, Greg Rossow and Franz Boelter. What a great history of baseball there is in Windom.
A: Yes. I’d heard a lot of stories about Lew Olson. He was older than I was (graduating from Windom High in the early 1970s) and I was fortunate enough to play some amateur baseball for Dundas when I first moved to the Cities. Lew’s father, Arnie, actually had a connection with Bill Nelson at Dundas and got me on the team. But Lew was just a legend in Dundas. I’m sure he was in Windom as well.
Q: You bet he was.
A: I played first base and my first year at Dundas, in any game, there would be an umpire or somebody who made it to first base and they’d all ask about Lew Olson and have a story of how great a player he was.
Q: Those stories are all true, I’m here to tell you, Chet. I know Lew.
Q: Well, I played some baseball back in the day against Lew but I also happen to know he was a great basketball and football player at Windom.
A: That’s what I’ve heard. My dad actually told me one time about Lew, who was a quarterback growing up. In a varsity game the running back got hurt, I guess, so they put Lew in to play halfback and he just tore it up. My dad said he hadn’t seen moves like that since Gale Sayers (laughs). Dad might have been exaggerating a little bit but, for sure, Lew was a great athlete.
Q: I was sorry to learn Lew recently lost his father. And of course his little brother, Jay, was also a great player and a really good guy. I understand Lew is living back in Windom. Do you know, Chet?
A: Yes he is. He’s moved back home from Sioux Falls to help his mom. You know, Jay was a tremendous athlete, too. For sure.
Q: Your hometown of Windom has to remain a special place for you, doesn’t it, Chet?
A: Oh yes. I loved Windom and I still love Windom. I loved growing up in that small town. There was a lot of support from the community, which was a huge part of our success in sports.
Q: I know of your great college career at SDSU. Did you have any opportunity to play pro baseball?
A: Nope (laughs). I was decent first baseman and a pretty good hitter for average. Kind of a gap hitter, but I didn’t have the power they were looking for.
Q: I know you played town ball for the Windom Pirates (from 1986-91) and then for Dundas (1993-99). My gosh, how you could ever play for anybody but your hometown team?
A: (laughs) Well, Windom is a nice town but it is small. I ended up moving to the Cities to find a job and ended up being able to play for Dundas.
Q: Of course Dundas is one of the most famous townball teams in Minnesota. But, man oh man, Dundas is the king of the free agents! Lew and Jay Olson, and you and my old buddy Dana Kiecker (former Boston Red Sox pitcher from Fairfax). Even the great Joe Driscoll (from LeSueur), who I used to know. All you guys ended up playing for Dundas. Were they giving you boys big signing bonuses or what, Chet?
A: (laughs) No bonuses. Just free beer after the game (laughs).
Q: Bill Nelson was a great guy, too.
A: For sure. He was one of the best.
Q: Well, Bill was a fine pitcher as I recall, but nobody could hit them out of sight like Lew. I believe he hit about 300 homers in his Dundas career, didn’t he Chet?
A: (laughs) I guess in one season they played 40 games and I’ve heard he hit like 32 or 38 homers. I’m not sure what the true story is. (Lew actually hit 36 home runs in the 1982 season for the Dukes).
Q: Tell me about your family, Chet. I understand you have a son playing baseball at Southwest Minnesota State.
A: Yes. My wife is Julie and my oldest son, Josh, is a sophomore pitcher at Southwest. I have a daughter (Elise) who is a freshman at St. Cloud State and my son, Jacob, is a junior in high school here in Shakopee.
Q: So Josh is a pitcher for coach Blanchard there in Marshall?
Q: Is your wife Julie a good Windom girl?
A: She’s from Willmar, actually. We met when I moved to the Cities. It was the best thing that happened to me (laughs).
Q: What do you do for a living, Chet?
A: I’m a fulfillment supervisor for a collectible coin company. Asset Marketing is the name of the company. I’ve been here 20 years.
Q: Your real name is Chester? Or just Chet?
A: It’s Chet.
Q: Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, I guess.
A: (laughs). My dad had an old Army buddy who was named Chet and he just liked it.
Q: Was your dad a great baseball player, too?
A: He was, actually. He played baseball and football at South Dakota State. The year he was drafted (seventh-round choice of the Bears) he signed before his senior year in baseball and couldn’t play. I know that disappointed him. I think he was also on the practice squad for basketball out there (SDSU).
Q: How is the renovation of Island Park in Windom coming, do you know? (The Windom ballpark has been severely damaged by flooding the past few years).
A: It’s pretty sad. As you know, that is one of the best ballparks around. I don’t know how the renovation is coming. I’ve driven past it and I really miss the old signage on the outfield fence, but I know they’re putting some money into it and hopefully they can get it back to where it was.
Q: How many homers did you hit there at Island Park, Chet? It’s a pretty big yard.
A: A real big yard, yes. I think I only hit two home runs there. In right center it was marked 395 feet and I actually hit one over that. I guess that’s my claim to fame (laughs).
Q: Well, Chet, Lew Olson hit a few more than two homers there.
A: (laughs) I know. He put a few out on the highway, I’m sure.
Q: One time against my Slayton Rockets, Mike Davison hit one over the scoreboard in right field. I remember that, Chet.
A: I remember that name, too. Mike played for the San Francisco Giants, didn’t he?
Q: He sure did. On the same team with Willie Mays. Yes he did. Mike was a real good guy, too. You know, Chet, I heard from Dana Kiecker the other day and he said Lew attended a recent reunion of the Dundas Dukes.
A: We try to get together every year and it’s always fun. The stories always get bigger and better (laughs).
Q: Is it still free beer for you free agents?
A: No, we’ve got to pay now (laughs).
Q: OK, Chet, OK. Do you have any final comments for the great folks back home in Windom who cheered for you back in the day?
A: (pauses) For those of us who have moved on from Windom, we still love the place. It’s helped us all be what we are as people today. That’s a tribute to the community, the coaches and the people of Windom.
Q: Thanks very much, Chet.
A: I really appreciate it, Scott. Thank you.
(Conversations With Scott, produced by Scott Mansch of the Globe, appears about twice a month online at dglobe.com. He can be reached at email@example.com)