by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Baseball fields continue to draw crowds in the area with the Crow River Valley Baseball League season just wrapping up, constant men’s and women’s softball leagues and the State Amateur 35 and older baseball tournament taking part in Norwood Young America, Hamburg, Green Isle, Arlington and Gaylord, Aug. 16-17 and 23-24.
To celebrate the history of the game, an old-timers baseball game between Norwood and Young America is being planned as one of the new activities highlighting the annual Stiftungsfest celebration coming up Aug. 22-24.
The baseball game, organized by Chad Feltmann, Randy Feltmann, and Virgil and Terry Zellmann, will provide fans and athletes alike an opportunity to share stories, enjoy the sport, partake in discounted beverages and celebrate the baseball traditions of the two town ball teams.
Randy Feltmann and Chad Feltmann, unrelated, are heading up the Norwood team, while Virgil and his son, Terry Zellmann, are heading up the Young America team.
Randy, a 1970 Central graduate, said he was looking forward to the game, one of several old-timer games in recent years. Randy started when he was a junior in 1968 and played until 1988. Randy was also a batboy in 1958 when his dad, Donald, was on the team and Norwood made the state tournament from 1954-1958. Norwood also made the tournament in 1960 and 1962-63 until a drought.
“They were lean years,” he said. “We won some games the first couple of years.”
Randy added that the group he started with would have an impact on the team success in the late 1970s and early 80s.
“When we started in 68-69, they were all in our age group and we stayed around,” he said. “That was good for another 10, 15 years. It was a pretty good clique and we enjoyed it.”
Norwood’s second run of state tournament berths started in 1976 then continued in 1978, 1980 and 1981.
“We had winning seasons most of the time,” said Randy, adding attendance at games was outstanding as Plato, Green Isle, Hamburg and Norwood were atop the standings. “There were battles. Those days there were only three teams in the playoffs so every Sunday meant something. You hardly didn’t take vacation in 20 years.”
The rivalry between Young America and Norwood was always strong in those years, too.
“That was a good draw across the tracks,” said Randy. “There was friction. There were close games and lopsided games.”
Randy, a third baseman of the “Red Machine” and “F Troop” infield squads, added that field conditions were interesting.
“It has changed a lot,” said Randy. “We had to come down and rake the field if it rained.”
Relocated from the Pool Park site, Zellmann Field opened in 1950 before undergoing renovations in 1990 for a new fence, drainage system, dugouts and a scoreboard until it re-opened in 1992.
“We had good fan support but it takes a lot of money to raise money for a baseball field,” said Randy.
Chad, a 1992 Central graduate, was a former centerfielder and first baseman for Norwood from 1990 to 2011.
Among his highlights were the additions to the field in the early 1990s, lights in 2000 and when Hamburg and Norwood co-hosted the state tournament in 2007.
Randy said organizing the game has been a bit of a challenge to track down and recruit some of the older players.
“We got a lot of guys in the 50s and 60s,” he said. “Some guys just don’t want to play and get hurt. It does happen.”
Chad, who is charge of getting the younger Norwood players, said it’s been going well.
“There’s a bunch of them that want to play,” he said. “I told them they’ve got to play because I’m not sure how much the older guys want to go.”
Randy added that all former players are encouraged to show up.
“If the guys don’t want to play we want them to come to the bench and sit and reminisce and all that,” said Randy. “There’s guys in the high 70s that probably want to come in the dugout and talk.”
Randy, who hit one or two home runs the last time an old-timers game took place five years ago for Merchants Day, added he is looking forward to the game.
“The first four or five innings you let them hit,” said Randy. “You throw the ball down the pipe and let them hit. But after the first round it gets a little tighter then. It gets fierce.”
Chad was looking forward to his inaugural old-timers game.
“This is my first one, the first time I’m finally old enough,” he said.
On the Young America side, organizers Terry Zellmann and his dad Virgil are eager for the game.
Terry Zellmann, 52 and a 1980 Central graduate, added he has talked with 10 to 20 guys about the game. Zellmann first started taking part in the team as a bat boy at the age of 5 when his dad Virgil was on the team before becoming a Cardinal in 1977.
He then was a catcher and pitcher for the team until stopping in 1998, adding his highlight was taking part in the state tournament in 1992, one of two berths for the Cardinals, with the other happening in 1946.
“We were on the weaker side for a while with a few young guys,” he said. “In the early 80’s we were pretty good but one class made it pretty tough.”
Young America has continued to have good teams since that time and Zellmann has continued to follow the team, hanging out at the ballpark and helping with concessions.
“I’m pretty much around there all the time,” he said, adding hanging out with his former teammates was the best part about playing. “Being with all the guys was as important as anything. It’s kind of the reason I still hang around.”
While efforts are being made to contact players from both teams, interested participants are encouraged to contact organizers or simply show up for the game in their old uniforms, which will go for about two hours with aluminum bats.
“This will be the last hurrah for us older guys,” Randy said. “We want to have fun. Some guys might try for a double and halfway to second base he might make a nosedive or something. You feel like you’re 20 years old when you’re out there.”
The old-timers baseball game between Young America and Norwood will be Friday, Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. at Willkommen Park.
For more information, visit http://www.stiftungsfest.org.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]