Tribune Notebook: Stingers get ready for opener
New Stingers manager Freddy Smith hopes to bring some 'Hawaii Chaos' to Willmar this summer
WILLMAR — Freddy Smith arrived in Minnesota at 6 a.m. Friday after taking a red-eye flight at 5 p.m. Honolulu time Thursday.
Forgive the new Willmar Stingers manager for needing a little time to orient himself while he hits the ground running for the 2022 Northwoods League season.
"I'm excited, can't wait," he said by phone.
Willmar opens the season with a two-game series beginning Monday at Rochester. The Stingers then have their home-opener scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium against the Eau Claire Express.
Included in the opening ceremonies will be special guest Eddie Guardado. Guardado is a former pitcher for the Minnesota Twins who will be on hand to meet and greet fans as well as sign autographs.
Guardado, known as Everyday Eddie, was primarily a reliever in his major league career which spanned from 1993-2009, primarily with the Twins. He also pitched for Seattle, Cincinnati and Texas. He led the American League in saves in 2002 with the Twins.
Smith is a University of Hawaii assistant who also was director of player management at Cal State-Northridge, where he played in 2016-17 after traning from El Camino College in California.
He's a native Hawaiian who has spent the past two seasons as a coach for the Waterloo Bucks, one of the Stingers' division rivals in the Northwoods League.
"I'm excited to get the opportunity to be a head coach," Smith said.
Ryan Voz, co-owner of the Stingers and the Northwoods League president, is excited about having Smith as his field manager.
"He's got a lot of energy," Voz said. "He's never been a head coach, but he's been an assistant for quite few years.
"He's got a great passion for baseball. The guy is going to be a head collegiate baseball coach in the near future."
Smith replaces Al Leyva, a long-time baseball man who managed the Stingers for three seasons.
Smith says his offensive philosphy is be as aggressive as possible, whether it's on the bases or swinging for the faces.
"I like to create chaos," he said. "I love the aggressive style of baseball a lot."
He called it a little Hawaii chaos, where he coaches and is working on his master's degree.
As for a team, Smith had a meet-and-great meeting scheduled for Friday night. There are 19 players in town. They'll practice together for the first time Saturday, then hop on a bus Monday, heading for Rochester to play the Honkers for the season-opener.
There are 11 pitchers in town, which should get the Stingers into next week. Willmar has three Augustana University and three Point Loma Nazerene University players on the roster who aren't in town yet because those teams are in super regionals.
The Augustana players include Willmar native Drey Dirksen, pitcher Seth Miller of Blaine and Ryan Jares of Windsor Colorado.
The Point Loma players are catcher Jake Entrekin and infielders Scott Anderson and Jakob Christian. All are from California.
The Stingers also are awaiting the arrival of Kennesaw State pitchers John Bezdicek and Smith Pinson, who also in regional play. Bezdicek is from Plymouth. Smith, his manager, calls his a potential pro prospect.
Besides Dirksen, there are two other players from the west central Minnesota area: North Dakota State left-hander Andrew Baumgart and Illinois State right-hander Will Roguske.
Baumgart is a Willmar High School graduate. Roguske is from New London-Spicer.
The Stingers also have right-hander Jack Zigan returning. He's a right-hander at Minnesota State-Mankato from Eden Prairie. Another MSU Maverick on the roster is infielder Aidan Byrne of Eagan.
Outfielder Brett Bateman is a sophomore outfielder at the University of Minnesota and potential top-of-the-order man for the Stingers. He's from Arden Hills.
And, there is Minnesota-Duluth outfielder Tim Pokornowski, who is from Cloquet. as well as infielder Decker Scheffer of Ball State University and Sanborn.
"I love the fact that everyone's from all different parts of the country," said Smith, who said he thinks it's an opportunity to learn different styles of play.
* Former Willmar star Nadir Yusuf finished 10th nationally at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Allendale, Michigan. Yusuf, a senior at Minnesota State-Moorhead who has a bachelor's degree in business, ran a time of 29 minutes, 40.84 seconds, earning second-team All-American honors.
* Jacqueline Gossen, a sophomore from Brooten, earned All-NSIC spring academic honors. She's a member of Southwest Minnesota State's women's golf team. To be eligible, members must have have a 3.60 cumulative grade-point average or higher.
* Ridgewater College is having a signing ceremony for 10 athletes who have committed to the Warriors' volleyball program at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Those expected to sign are Kelsey Butler and Karli Jensen of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Yansi Flores of Yellow Medicine East and Hallye Foster, Olivia Naatjes, Gabby Randt, Cailin Yoose and Elizabeth Koenen of MACCRAY. Also signing is Julia Schweiss of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop and Morgan Hoffman of Sleepy Eye Public.