Amateur Baseball: A Rocket launch

Tyler Steen slugs a two-run homer to lift Raymond past Bird Island, 3-2

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Raymond's Caleb Ditmarson taps helmets with teammate Tyler Steen after a solo home run in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against Bird Island at Lilleberg Field in Raymond. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

RAYMOND — In batting practice, Tyler Steen recognized that any ball hit in the air to left was going to travel well this day.

The gusting winds at Lilleberg Field made fly balls a bit adventurous in general on this sunny Sunday. But lifted high enough and far enough, the wind would do some of the heavy lifting to get the ball to sail over the fence.

“I knew if you put one up in the air to left, it was going to be gone, the wind would take it,” Steen said.

That’s just what Steen did in the bottom of the eighth inning. His two-run homer lifted the Raymond Rockets past the Bird Island Bullfrogs, 3-2, in a Corn Belt League game.

“It’s a good day,” Steen said.


Steen was one of two home runs slugged by the Rockets, who also got a solo shot to left from Caleb Ditmarson in the fourth. Ditmarson, a 2018 Willmar High School graduate, went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. The right-hander also threw five scoreless innings, striking out nine.

While Steen is in his 14th year with Raymond, it’s Ditmarson’s first. The former Willmar Rail has pitched the last two seasons with Dakota County Technical & Community College. He’s headed to the University of Sioux Falls, an NCAA Division II school in South Dakota.

“He wanted to come over here and play,” said the Rockets’ Joe Schlagel.

“I had coached him when I was at Willmar,” said Steen, who is now the Willmar Middle School activities director. “He’s super talented.

“We’re fortunate to pick up a guy like that. He talked to some Willmar guys we’ve had and he reached out and asked about playing for us.”

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Bird Island third baseman Shawn Dollerschell waits on a chopper for the eventual out during Sunday's game against Raymond at Lilleberg Field in Raymond. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

It was the first home game of the year for the Rockets, who won two games in Castlewood, South Dakota the previous weekend. South Dakota opened up for baseball after restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


Minnesota hasn’t officially opened. Like all of the Minnesota Baseball Association’s 275-plus teams, the Rockets have followed guidelines issued by the governor that have closed down most activities, including baseball.

The MBA’s board of directors Wednesday decided to allow teams to play in the state, allowing each to get approval from their local municipalities to re-open their parks.

At Raymond, there was a waiver signed by fans who attended the game, verifying that they had no symptoms. There also was a large bottle of hand sanitizer available in the main grandstand.

Players avoided high fives and handshakes. The concession stand was closed.

“Hopefully, it’ll be open the next game,” Schlagel said.

Otherwise, it was like any other game at the ballpark.

“It feels good to be back out here,” Schlagel said.

Raymond next plays the Milroy Yankees at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Milroy, then plays next Sunday at Marshall. Bird Island is host to Granite Falls at 7:30 p.m. Friday, then is host to Sacred Heart at 5 p.m. next Sunday.


Raymond manager Butch Steen and Bird Island manager Mike Nagel rushed off to a league meeting immediately after the game and weren’t available for comment.

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Without a post-game handshake, Raymond's Mike Jeseritz waves his cap at the Bird Island dugout after the Rockets won Sunday's game, 3-2. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Raymond 3, Bird Island 2

Bird Island 000 000 020-2 7 0
Raymond 000 100 02x-3 6 2
Hitting - Bird Island: Tyler Hebrink 3-4 2b, Jack Peppel 1-3, Shawn Dollerschell 1-4, Colten Minkel 0-3 r, Jordan Sagedahl 1-4 r, Reed Stadther 1-3 … Raymond: Eric Hulterstum 1-4, Caleb Ditmarson 3-4 r-2 2b hr rbi, Tyler Steen 1-3 r hr rbi-2, John Sawatzky 1-4.

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Bird Island: Logan Nissen 3-1-0-0-0-5, James Woelfel 2-1-1-1-3-2, Dyan Gass 2-3-0-0-0-0, Casey Lewandowski (L) 1-3-2-2-0-0. Raymond: Ditmarson 5-2-0-0-2-9, Sawatzky (W) 3-4-2-0-0-3, Zach Nelson 1-1-0-0-0-0.

Tom Elliott has been the sports editor at the West Central Tribune since September 2019.
Contact him at or leave a message at 320-235-1150.
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