WORTHINGTON -- A few short weeks ago, Jeff Jager brought a ton of much-needed enthusiasm to the 2020 Minnesota West college women’s softball team. The Lady Jays suspended their 2018 and 2019 campaigns due to a lack of player depth, but this year as February turned to March they had a new head coach and optimism galore.
Alas, COVID-19 concerns have forced the cancellation of another season of fast-pitch softball for West (and the baseball season, too). It just doesn’t seem that the softball program can catch a break, right?
Well, perhaps that’s being a bit too pessimistic. If the program can survive one more seasonal disruption, it’ll have an experienced softball player and coach at the helm for 2021. Jager has logged more than two decades as a player in the men’s fast-pitch game, and he has coached high school girls softball for many years.
“I grew up in George (Iowa),” he told The Globe recently. “My sister, six years older than me, was a really good softball player. … I really started watching softball when I was in 4th, 5th, 6th grade. I always loved it. I played baseball in high school, and then when I was about 20 years old I started playing fast-pitch. I played fast-pitch for Rock Rapids -- Rock Rapids Merchants. And I’ve been playing that ever since. I’ve been playing going on 22 years now. It’s just a sport that I’ve grown to love.”
Jager had a prior connection with Minnesota West, having wrestled for the college under coaches Jerry Jansen and current men’s athletic director Bob Purcell. Today, he works as a liaison officer with Central Lyon High School while continuing as girls softball coach. Married, with two children, he also helps his father farm in rural George. A self-described “huge” Iowa Hawkeyes fan, he helped start the Central Lyon chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Jager is featured in this week’s Drill. To see the video, go to www.dglobe.com. Here is a sampling of the interview:
QUESTION: What is it about fast-pitch softball that makes it such a terrific sport?
ANSWER: “I love the flow of the game. A lot of action, quick pace. I like the fact that you can play three, four games in a day and still want to play another one.”
QUESTION: How rewarding is the coaching part of it?
ANSWER: “I’ve really enjoyed the coaching aspect of it -- teaching the game, the game itself, coaching in-game strategy. I’ve gotten to know some great people through coaching -- people I’ve coached against, some coaches that I faced, that I’m still in contact with. It’s just something that’s been a big part of my life.”
QUESTION: How has the 2020 Minnesota West squad looked to you in early practices?
ANSWER: “I told the girls last week, after our last practice, how pleasantly surprised I was at their coachability, which is obviously very important to me. We’re going over new stuff, and they’ve adjusted well to that. Eager to learn, eager to work, and as a coach that’s all you can ask for.”