Willmar Notebook: Stiers have special All-Star moments
The Major League All-Star game comes to these parts seldom, so it’s best to step up to the plate if you’re penciled into the line-up.
Mark Stier, middle-school math teacher and recently retired varsity baseball coach, did just that. He and Stier family members were a small part of a dazzling pre-game ceremony on July 14 at Target Field.
If you watched the pre-game, Mark and his son Dean, who will be a junior at South Dakota State, were among the 140 individuals holding the American Flag that spanned the outfield.
“It was a very emotional moment,” Mark told me. “We’re a family with a lot of military veterans, going back generations. It was a huge honor, regardless of the All-Star atmosphere.”
Mark’s regard for the military is multiplied by Iraq War veterans, brother Steve Stier of Onida, S.D., and brother-in-law, Dustin Daak of Renville, married to Lisa.
Here is how Mark and Dean came to be part of the patriotic display.
Mark’s sister-in-law, Melanie Stier, is a teacher in Osakis. She had a connection with an outstate Twins representative who asked if she knew any teachers who might be interested in participating in the All-Star pre-game.
She contacted Mark who had to call the Twins’ office to get put on the list. The Twins called back and told him to bring a guest; he was offered ticket packages and did buy upper-deck seats in left field for $185 apiece.
Flag holders were instructed to wear khakis to go with the red t-shirt provided by Major League baseball. The Stiers had to show up at 7:30 a.m. the day of the game — for practice.
Dean and Mark arrived early to soak it up.
“We watched Idina Menzel, from the movie “Frozen,” go through the “Star Spangled Banner.” The network announcers and the ESPN guys were all on hand. The camera operators set up their angles. Everything was practiced three times, including commercials.”
Dean, former Cardinals athlete now playing town team for the New London-Spicer Twins, noted that the PA announcer was struggling with player names. He even alerted a Twins’ official. It did get fixed before game time.
The Stiers, a Chokio family of four boys and one girl, were each multi-sport athletes for the Chokio-Alberta Spartans. They were well represented on the field with Mark’s brother Matt and his wife Melanie, brother Pat Stier and his girlfriend Allie Wadsworth, and Mark and Dean all in a row on the flag.
“The flag is 100 yards long and 60 yards wide,” Mark said. “The flag comes in three parts that are clipped together every three feet or so. If we lined up the clips wrong, we would have to start all over.
“During practice, we were told to beat down any air bubbles, but if we couldn’t get the air out we were supposed to periodically let go or else the flag would lift us in the air. The supervisor told us he has been up in the air ten feet at times and it can be dangerous.
There were people assigned as runners who would unfurl the flag, and then there were holders who were to let out the bunched up flag. Others were off to the sides and stepped in to stabilize it once it was open. We were the holders of the bottom left corner. Once the singer hit the part that says ‘Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave?’ we set ripples through the flag — the wave, so to speak. When the Thunderbirds flew over we started to bunch up the flag in unison making sure it didn’t hit the ground. After we had it rolled up, we basically went back up the ramps and unclipped it and put it in the three separate wooden crates. During practice, and the game, it was a real show stopper. Everyone made sure to show respect and thank us.”
The Stiers and other holders used the ramps behind the left-center field wall. It was where the players met their families. “My brother Matt got a huge hug from Mike Trout’s mom,” who would see her son star in the American League victory and earn the MVP award. “We also saw Hank Aaron and Bud Selig, among others.”
Mark and Dean’s big night just kept getting better. A bit of luck, allowed them to shift from the upper deck to behind home plate among the player families, and were seated next to Kurt Suzuki’s family.
“An ESPN film crew hung close to get a reaction shot when the Twins’ catcher entered the game to catch teammate Glen Perkins in the ninth inning.
“When he got in the game, they got their shot and left us all alone.”
This was the first time I had a chance to visit with Mark about his choice to resign as head coach after four years. This was Stier’s second tenure as head coach; he also headed the program from 1999 to 2005, a total of 11 season, with season best 19 wins in 2000.
“It was just a good time,” he told me at a NLS Twins’ game on the weekend. “I got my 100th win, which was one of my goals. I’ll be able now to help coach our daughter Megan’s Special Olympic team.”
Importantly, there’s an excellent staff in place with Tom DeBoer, JaColby Anderson and Tyler Steen, all current amateur players, by the way. Tom, an ex-Cardinal who plays for the Raymond Rockets and is a high-school math teacher, told me he plans to apply. Mark said that is good news.
Smith’s bat heats up at Akron
Jordan Smith carried a nine-game hitting streak into Wednesday night’s home game with Richmond, raising his batting average to .251, up from .225 on July 12.
On Monday, the fourth-year Cleveland Indians’ property went 3-for-4 batting lead-off in the RubberDucks’ 2-0 loss to the Flying Squirrels. Tuesday he was 2-for-3 an 8-2 loss to the Squirrels The 24-year-old outfielder has 17 hits in his last 32 at bats, a .531 average. He was elevated from the bottom of the batting to lead-off on Sunday.