Willmar notebook: Meanwhile, at a desert oasis

Let's get away from this thick mid-March cover of white dust and for a moment join the snow birds in the Phoenix area.Sharon (Corneil) Hanson graduated from the brand new high school on Seventh Street in 1960. Two years earlier she'd known senior...

Jordan Smith
Photo by Dan and Sharon Hanson Al Zinter Jr. and Jordan Smith have a number of things in common, besides a Willmar heritage. At left is former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Erickson, a pitching coach for the Class A Carolina Mudcats since 2012.

Let’s get away from this thick mid-March cover of white dust and for a moment join the snow birds in the Phoenix area.
Sharon (Corneil) Hanson graduated from the brand new high school on Seventh Street in 1960. Two years earlier she’d known senior Al Zinter, a fine baseball player who had got out in 1958.
Last week on a sunny morning, Sharon and her husband Dan were watching a workout on one of the diamonds at the Cleveland Indians’ player development complex in the northwest suburb of Goodyear. Much of their attention was focused on prospect Jordan Smith, who is engaged to their granddaughter, Ashley Bach, who has been going with Jordan since they were juniors at Willmar.
Something else caught Sharon’s eye. One of the Tribe shirts carried the name “Zinter” across the back.
“I’m going to yell at him,” Sharon told her husband, who grew up in Fairmont. “I want to see if he knows any Zinters in Minnesota.”
A little uncomfortable that his wife might intrude on the decorum of spring training, Dan walked away from the fence.
“Hey, Zinter,” Sharon shouted, overcoming her natural shyness. “Do ya’ know any Zinters from Minnesota?”
The young man turned toward her.
“You mean, like Willmar?” he said.
Alan Zinter ambled to the fence and began to visit. He was indeed the son of Al Zinter, who was also visiting spring training at the moment.
Zinter Jr., is starting his second year as the Indians’ minor league hitting coordinator. He was a first-round pick in the 1989 June draft out of Arizona State but would play only briefly in the big leagues (2002-04).
Sharon and Al, who live in El Paso, Texas, where Alan is in both the baseball and city hall of fame, spent a good deal of time reminiscing about teachers and classmates back in the day. And, of course, they took many pictures.
The Hansons are retired from Hanson’s Advertising and now work with R&J Tours. They are expecting to organize a Cactus League spring training tour for 2014.
To start his third year of professional ball, Smith was among a select handful of prospects invited to an early camp at Goodyear. Though he didn’t get in the game, the 22-year-old left-hand hitting rightfielder was on the bench when the major league team played an exhibition game in Scottsdale versus the world champion San Francisco Giants on March 5.
Smith is slated to start the season with the Carolina Mudcats, the organization’s advanced Class A affiliate in the Carolina League.
Bill to protect coaches
State Representative Dean Urdahl of rural Grove City has authored a bill to give coaches a fighting chance when it comes to dismissal.
He first authored the so-called coach’s process bill several years ago. It requires that school districts grant a coach a hearing, if one is requested, and that the coach be given the reasons for dismissal. John Erickson, the director of the State High School Coaches Association, asked at the time that the bill be reviewed and suggested changes.
After considering their suggestions, Urdahl offered a bill that simply says that parental complaints can’t be the only reason for dismissing a coach.
“I believe the opinions of parents should be considered and if the complaints concern a violation of state law or school policy they rise to a different level,” Urdahl commented in an email this week. “This legislation would empower school boards in their decision making and provide some comfort to coaches. They still remain at-will employees and this does not impact tenure. The bill was heard Monday night and I hope it will be included in the Education Policy Omnibus Bill.”
Urdahl is a retired teacher and cross country coach. His girls teams at New London-Spicer won three consecutive Class A state titles early this century.
On the fly
- The St. Benedict/St. John’s University curling team placed second of 16 teams at the college nationals last weekend in Duluth. Josh Oestreich is a team leader. The Willmar grad first learned the game during P.E. classes at the Civic Center and later joined the Willmar Curling Club. Civic Center manager Kevin Madsen said Josh is the first curling club member to compete in a national tournament; in an email CSB/SJU club president Jimmy Crea stated that “Josh played great.”
- Ridgewater football coach Rob Baumgarn announced this week that he has commitments in writing now from Sauk Centre running back Roosevelt Austin and Willmar linebacker Josh Kelly of Willmar.
- Former Cardinal Pat Dorsey played in the big-school state tournament (AA) back in 1987 and again in 1988 for coach Mike Hanson. He’s back to the Show for the first time since as a head coach himself. His Edina Hornets (22-7) toppled mighty Hopkins for the third time this season 55-53 in the 6AAAA final at Osseo on Tuesday. All-state guard Graham Woodward cast in the winning free throws in the closing moments. This is Dorsey’s 14th year as a head coach, his ninth at Edina.
- Scott Swanson (WHS ’74) has his Woodbury Royals back in the state tourney for the fourth time since 2006. The Royals (25-4) took out Stillwater 52-44 Wednesday night at East Ridge High School in the 4AAAA final. Swanson was a senior starting guard on Shorty Schroeder’s team that got Willmar to state 39 years ago for the first time since the 1958 team placed third under Russ Adamson.
- When Rebekah Dahlman scored her 5,000th point at the Target Center on Wednesday evening, not only did the Braham fans cheer, but it was pointed out to me that BOLD fans also gave her an ovation. The basket came on one of her many fast-break layups. She finished the game with 40 points, five above her season average.
- Bonnie Henrickson’s Kansas Jayhawks lost to Iowa State Saturday 77-62 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to finish 18-12 with an 8-11 conference record. This is the former Cardinal’s ninth year at the helm in Lawrence.
- Hunter Schneider is playing for the Granite City Lumberjacks junior hockey team. In four games last week, the speedy forward scored 7 points, 5 on goals, and has scored in each of his five games. “Hunter really has a great skill set,” said Granite City head coach Brad Willner. “He has brought a youthful energy to the team, which is what we need this time of year. He is shifty and has a lot of quickness and confidence for a 17-year-old.” The Jacks play in the North American 3 Hockey League, a USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier III Junior league.

Zinters and Smith
Photo by Dan and Sharon Hanson From left, Al Zinter Sr. (WHS ’58), Al Zinter Jr., Cleveland’s minor league hitting coordinator; and minor league outfielder Jordan Smith (WHS ’10) at the Indians’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., on March 7.

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