Doug Wolter: T-Ball alive and expanding in Rushmore

When the on-and-off Rushmore T-ball program was started up again in 2011, 22 kids participated. This summer, 60 kids took part. "We're a town of just a little over 300 people, but on Tuesday night, the town is booming," said program director Jaso...

When the on-and-off Rushmore T-ball program was started up again in 2011, 22 kids participated. This summer, 60 kids took part.
“We’re a town of just a little over 300 people, but on Tuesday night, the town is booming,” said program director Jason Hieronimus on Tuesday, just hours before the town’s final T-ball night of the summer.
Why does a community Rushmore’s size lure so many T-ballers to its program?
One reason may be that the games are played on a shaded field at the Rushmore school, where there are bleachers for fans, playground equipment for the younger children, and restrooms. Another reason might be Rushmore’s convenient location between Worthington and Adrian and near other southwest Minnesota towns full of baseball fans. Hieronimus says T-ball players come not only from Rushmore, but also from Worthington, Adrian, Lakefield, Brewster, Ellsworth, Lismore, Wilmont, Reading, Magnolia and Luverne.
Game days are on Tuesday nights from 7 to 8 p.m., which allows more working parents and grandparents the opportunity to watch. Every participant gets to play, and after the games conclude each kid is treated to a treat. After Tuesday’s games, the kids were given a medal and a root beer float.
City clerk Colleen Gruis, who handles the sign-up at the beginning of the summer season, has been surprised by the program’s rapid growth. “It’s not just a Rushmore thing now. It’s becoming a surrounding community thing,” she said Tuesday. “Last year was the first year when we were astonished with the amount of kids we had. And this year we’ve even had more of that.”
Rushmore might be accused of being just a little bit behind the times in its youth programs. After all, there’s no youth soccer program yet. But bat and ball games have been a staple for decades, and it’s obvious that parents still want to keep that tradition alive.
“You can see the growth in the kids,” Hieronimus explains. “When they bat, they might sometimes run to third (base). But by the time the season’s over, everyone knows where to go.”
Region baseball scramble
The teams that qualify for the state amateur baseball tournament from Region 13C will be the teams that play the best. To play the best, it helps to have tradition on your side, and that’s why the Luverne Redbirds should be tough to beat.
In Region 13C openers tonight, top-seeded Luverne hosts Lakefield (8) while Jackson (5) is at the Milroy Irish (4), Wilmont (6) is at Fairmont (3) and Hadley (2) plays Heron Lake (7) in Worthington.
Luverne’s amateur team benefits from having had outstanding ballplayers move up through VFW, American Legion and high school ball. Mike Wenninger, the self-described “oldest player” on the amateur team, coached VFW this year and before that led LHS Cardinals teams to state tournaments. He credits Legion coach Barry Shelton and amateur team coach James Fisher for maintaining a high standard of excellence. But the pride of performance goes even further than that, including city crew grounds keepers John Stoeffel and Dave Van Batavia.
“Talk about taking charge, those guys are top of the line,” Wenninger said Tuesday.
As for the 2015 Redbirds, Wenninger said chemistry works in their favor. “They get along real well together. They got a good mix of young and old.”

Related Topics: YOUTH SPORTS
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at
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