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Willmar notebook: One-armed youngster a three-sport athlete

Apparently, Isaiah Hendrickson sets no limits.

Born with a left arm that stops before the elbow, he plays rec baseball, hockey and tennis.

“I like hockey the best,” he told me Monday during a baseball game at the high school against the Atwater A’s.

Isaiah, who turns 12 on Aug. 11, plays on the Willmar Mudhens team in the WCER fifth- and sixth-grade league.

His coaches are Jay Magnuson and Dave Baumgart.

In unison, they told me “He’s a great kid. He was hesitant at first but now he’s not afraid. He’s going to take his swings.”

In this game, swinging with one arm, mind you, he fouled off a couple of pretty good fastballs but didn’t put a ball in play in three at bats. Isaiah, who will be a sixth-grader at Community Christian, walked once and scored.

Keith Hendrickson, his father, tells me that Isaiah has had a couple of hits, plus hitting a couple of fly balls and grounders.

Teammate Hunter Magnuson said “Isaiah creates a lot of excitement when he gets a hit or something.”

Keith and Karen had raised four children when they adopted Isaiah at birth.

“He’s a determined kid,” said Keith.

As he grew, it became harder to find a Velcro-strapped athletic shoe to fit. He told his dad he would learn to tie his shoes with one hand (try that sometime).

“He can button his shirts, too, and beats me at any computer game,” marveled his dad. “Nothing much slows him down.

Jim Anderson has coached Isaiah both in hockey and tennis.

“He has great hand-eye coordination, knows court management and plays with a soft touch,” said Anderson. “Isaiah’s serve consists of a drop-and-hit and he serves at a high percentage. He’s a good skater in in-house WCER hockey. He manages his stick similar to how he swings the bat. He dribbles, passes and shoots as well as his fellow teammates.”

Former Major League outfielder Mike Kingery supervises the eight-team Atwater youth baseball program and was managing the A’s on Monday at Willmar.

Isaiah reminded him of Jim Abbott, who pitched for the Angels and the Yankees, among others. Kingery recalls seeing Abbott, then an Angel, one-arming an extra-base hit in a 1991 exhibition game when Kingery played for Seattle. “Both teams gave him an ovation,” said Kingery.

Abbott, who had an 11-year career in the major leagues, was born with a right arm but no hand. Like Abbott, Isaiah has had to learn to make the ball-in-glove-transfer to ball-in-hand for the throw.

“You’ve got to give him credit,” said Kingery nodding at the Willmar ballplayer.

Modified special tonight

The Modifieds take center stage tonight at the fairgrounds. The KRA Speedway is the first of four consecutive nights of The Advantage RV’s Sizzling Summer Nights Modified Tour.

Friday night, the tour stops at Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo. Saturday it’s the Dakota State Fair Speedway in Huron, South Dakota, and then to Casino Speedway in Watertown, South Dakota.

The tour’s August Ambush includes the Madison Speedway on Aug. 10.

Just before the start of tonight’s program, drivers and fans will honor the memory of Charlie Nelson, who passed away last week, at home. Over seven decades, the amiable advocate for stock car racing seldom missed a race night on the fairgrounds oval — until last Thursday.

On the fly

Notes on the Green Lake Run: We misspelled the name of the women’s fourth-place finisher, and the 35-39 age-group winner, in the report of the July 6 race. Karen Ronning of Excelsior is a native of Graceville, who ran in college for the Gophers. She is married to Willmar native Justin Ronning. The overall champion, Sam Friesen, 19 of Minnetonka, has roots in the county; a grandmother, Phyllis (Hande) Ransom, was born and raised here and an aunt, Fern Hauge, lives in Willmar.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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