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Roosevelt teachers finally take a game from Stingers

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Roosevelt Elementary School social worker Angie Hoppe kicks the ball during the annual game between Roosevelt teachers and the Willmar Stingers. (LINDA VANDERWERF | TRIBUNE)2 / 5
Stingers pitcher Gage Hutchinson of Daytona Beach, Florida, high fives Roosevelt Elementary students Thursday in Willmar after a kickball game. (LINDA VANDERWERF | TRIBUNE)3 / 5
Jaymon Cervantes, a Willmar Stingers pitcher from Tucson, Arizona, kicks the stability ball Roosevelt Elementary teachers used in their quest to win their annual kickball game. (LINDA VANDERWERF | TRIBUNE)4 / 5
Students from Roosevelt Elementary School filled Bill Taunton Stadium Thursday morning to watch their teachers take on the Willmar Stingers in a game of kickball. (LINDA VANDERWERF | TRIBUNE)5 / 5

WILLMAR — Years of struggle finally gave way to a victory Thursday morning for the teachers of Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar.

The teachers won their annual kickball game against the Willmar Stingers baseball team for the first time ever. The final score was 7-5, but it may deserve an asterisk in the record book.

Technically, the teachers scored more runs, but the win came after some pleading from the Roosevelt manager and a lot of help from the Stingers.

The kickball game became an annual tradition after the Stingers started playing in Willmar in 2010. Since Roosevelt is nearby, it’s been a natural partnership between the Northwoods League baseball team and the K-5 school.

The game is usually held on the last day of school but was moved to Thursday because of an unfavorable weather forecast today.

Roosevelt manager Lee Gauer wasn’t shy about trying to enlist Stingers manager Matt Passauer in an effort to have his college athletes throw the game.

“They’ve been trying to convince us all day,” Passauer said, shaking his head. “When you compete for a living, it’s a little hard to throw a game.”

Gauer got the crowd of nearly 1,000 students revved up for the game by telling them that the Stingers were “all excellent baseball players ... but we’ve played way more kickball than they have,” to ear-splitting screams from the crowd. The average ages listed at game time: 21 for the college-athlete Stingers, 41 for the teachers.

The game opened with the national anthem. Principal Lori Lockhart said the school’s music teachers have been teaching the students the words, and their sweet voices filled the ballpark.

The Stingers dominated the first half of the four-inning game, and they scored several runs fairly easily.

But in that third inning, they pulled out some unusual equipment. The third-baseman was standing in a burlap sack. The pitcher wore a blindfold. The catcher and fielders wore headbands around their ankles.

The inning resulted in two home runs for the teachers, including a three-run homer by fifth-grade teacher Jeff Holtkamp. He kicked the ball over the fielders’ heads, and the hobbled Stingers had to hop to get to the ball.

The teachers rolled a large stability ball for the Stingers to kick in their next at bat. The ball was so big, though, that the teachers sometimes had trouble fielding it.

After the game, Gauer said the way they got there didn’t matter — he was proud of the win.

“We kicked, we ran, we caught and we threw like never before,” he said.

The Stingers players laughed and smiled throughout the game. Afterward, they lined up at the exit to the ballpark and offered high fives to all the fans.

“I had a blast,” said Gage Hutchinson, a pitcher from Daytona Beach, Florida. “It’s always nice to give back and hang out with the little guys.”

Ryan Abraham, a pitcher from Oxnard, California, said, “even though they had us tied up,” he enjoyed the game. “It’s awesome how the community is so involved with the team,” he said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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