Oehrlein takes Willmar Legion baseball helm
Former minor league pitcher Dave Oehrlein this summer will take the reins of the Post 167 baseball club. Oehrlein coached the Tri-County Black Sox at Atwater last summer. He played American Legion baseball at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, wh...
Former minor league pitcher Dave Oehrlein this summer will take the reins of the Post 167 baseball club. Oehrlein coached the Tri-County Black Sox at Atwater last summer. He played American Legion baseball at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, where he graduated in 1988.
Oehrlein is assistant principal and athletic director at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City where he has been employed since 1998. He lives in Willmar.
"I don't know many of the guys, but I plan on checking out a few games this spring so I can begin to put faces to names before tryouts," he said. "I look at it as a real challenge, but with me living in Willmar, it seemed like a good thing. I want to get more involved in coaching."
The 36-year-old left-hander says he is retiring as an active player. He pitched last summer for Atwater. In one memorable game last June, he fanned 24 Sacred Heart batters in over 15 innings before the Chuckers won 3-1. He was drafted by Raymond for the playoffs and won two state tournament games for the Rockets.
Oehrlein said former Willmar Legion coach Brad Dean first suggested he apply for the position last fall. He will replace co-coaches Matt Breen and Ben Iverson, who had just finished college and got jobs elsewhere.
Oehrlein played for Normandale Community College and St. Cloud State before being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played at Hamilton, Ont., Springfield, Ill., Savannah, Ga., St. Petersburg, Fla., then finished at Class AA Little Rock. A "bum shoulder" that still is painful after a lot of pitching forced him out of the professional game.
He's coached baseball at some level every year since 1996, including working with the Ridgewater staff at fall practice.
Mike Negen, Willmar native and former pitcher at Southwest Minnesota State Mustang, will be his assistant.
Honoring 2 greats
Dean Anderson (WHS '58) and Lane Erickson (WHS '65) are names that won't register with today's athletes at the high school, but none who lived here in 1950s and 1960s will forget them. Anderson died in August after a year-long battle to hold back cancer. Erickson, a St. Cloud dentist, died at age 56. He was about to leave home for the gym when he collapsed, struck down by a brain aneurysm.
Steve Myhre grew up with both boys on Willmar's near west side. He watched Anderson lead the Cardinal basketball team to third place in the 1958 state tournament. He was all-tourney scoring 65 points.
Myhre was Erickson's teammate on two Willmar basketball teams that were a stunning 44-2 but never got to state. Erickson went on to start at quarterback for Gustavus Adolphus and had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders. Erickson was the Tribune's top area athlete in 1965, along with classmate Jeff Hinz.
Myhre, who has an insurance business, wants to honor the memory of both men. "They were such quality people both in school and in life," he said.
This year the 1st Memorial Golf Scramble on June 26 at Eagle Creek Golf Club will raise funds for the Lane Erickson/Dean Anderson Memorial Scholarships. Myhre said that starting this spring four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded May 1 at the Willmar Senior Athletic Awards Program. Myhre has set golf sponsorships at $150 per hole. Registration ($70 or $50 club members) includes cart and dinner (phone 235-7832).
Activities director Paul Schmitz said the new scholarships will replace the Roth Chevrolet Scholarship, a $1,000 stipend that Mark Roth has presented over the years. Schmitz said Roth will continue his support of Willmar athletics through the Erickson/Anderson Memorial scholarship.
Star in summer stock
Danica Bleess, 16, of Willmar is featured in Stock Car Racing magazine's April issue. The teaser on the mag's cover asks "Does NASCAR have an answer to Danica Patrick?", referring to the Indy Car racing sensation.
Willmar's Danica was KRA Speedway Hobby Stock Rookie of the Year in 2004 as a 14-year-old. Last year she finished fourth in the division. She survived a high-speed collision with the wall (though her Mustang was totaled) and returned to race the next Thursday nursing a dislocated finger and a sore neck to race in another car.
Danica got her start in go-karts at age 9. She's a third generation racer following her dad, Jeff, and his dad David into the cockpit. Danica, who played hockey until this season, plans to move up to Street Stocks in 2007, according to the article.