John's Journal
As We Await Spring, Indoor Baseball Is The Only Option4/2/2013
Kolten Barker, a senior pitcher and shortstop on the Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial baseball team, could have been speaking for every baseball player – as well as every spring-sport athlete – in Minnesota when he made this statement Tuesday: “I think a bunch of guys are really disappointed.”

He was talking about the miserable weather that has harassed, delayed and played havoc with spring sports. The baseball teams from Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial and Maple River enjoyed a respite Tuesday afternoon by playing their season opener inside the vast expanse of the Metrodome. The game was scheduled by the coaches months and months ago, which turned out to be a pretty smart move.

“(LCWM coach) John Madsen and I have been around for quite a while,” said Maple River coach Randy Olson. “Last year we were saying, ‘We always get that first game delayed so why don’t we just play it up here?’ ”

The fee to use the Metrodome is $500 per hour, which includes use of the scoreboards and public-address system. But there is no shortage of teams on the high school and college levels from Minnesota and other states who have reserved time at the indoor ballpark.

Tuesday’s schedule began at 6 a.m. with a college doubleheader between St. Cloud State and Minnesota Crookston, followed by the Maple River-LCWM game, Henry Sibley vs. St. Paul Highland Park at 4 p.m., a game between Wisconsin high schools Menomonie and New Richmond at 7 p.m., and finally a 10 p.m. game between Maple Grove and Watertown-Mayer.

Baseball teams in the upper Midwest have few other options. There are a handful of outdoor fields that have artificial turf, but this spring’s bone-chilling temperatures make that a less-than-enticing proposition.

Minnetonka High School baseball coach Paul Twenge, whose school has an artificial turf diamond, said, “I’ve been here for seven years and we’ve only had this happen one other time, and that year it was snow. This year it’s the cold.”

Twenge receives several phone calls and emails a day from high school and college teams that would like to use the Skippers’ field. “You totally understand what they’re going through,” he said.

Here’s some even worse news: If spring weather in 2014 and 2015 are similar to 2013, there will be no indoor places to play baseball. The Metrodome will be demolished after the Vikings finish the 2013 season, with a new stadium next door to the dome not opening until 2016.

Temperatures are predicted to warm up in the days ahead, which would provide much-needed relief for all the baseball, softball, track, lacrosse, tennis athletes and golfers who have been patiently practicing indoors.

The Maple River and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial baseball teams – both schools are southwest of Mankato -- have been working out inside their gyms, on tennis courts and anywhere else they can find some dry ground.

“It’s been tough.” said Maple River senior shortstop Michael Lewis. “(Monday) was actually the first day we got out on the field. It was still pretty squishy and we were basically playing at about 70 percent. It’s just been tough. You can only take so many cuts off a tee; we need to get out and play.”

Maple River senior third baseman and pitcher Jeremiah Ennen said he was “very excited, very grateful to have this opportunity” to play in the Metrodome. “It’s pretty spectacular.

“It was kind of discouraging to just keep going in the gym and going in the gym,” he said. “To be in here, it just looks huge. We haven’t really been able to get a feel for the outside, the weather, the space. Having a nice environment to play in, where it’s not blowing and cold with snow blowing around, is pretty nice.”

Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial has enough gym space to work on infield drills, hit in a batting cage and use live pitching. Madsen said he checked on the Knights’ field Monday evening, trying to gauge how long it might be before the team can practice and play outdoors.

“Everything was pretty firm,” the coach said. “We have a little bit of snow on the warning track in left field and I don’t know how much frost has come out of the ground. We haven’t had any snow for about a week.”

After Tuesday’s game at the Metrodome, all baseball eyes in Maple River and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial were looking to Thursday’s weather. That’s when the two teams are scheduled to play again … on the Knights’ field.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Madsen said.

--To see a photo gallery from the game between Maple River and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 556
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,789
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Student Media Visits The Wild: “It was a night I will never forget” 4/1/2013
Several members of the MSHSL Student Media program attended recent Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves games as credentialed members of the media. They have written about their experiences and we are happy to share their stories with you …

By Jared Rubado
Brainerd High School

Usually when I go to a Minnesota Wild game, I get to the game an hour before the doors open, go into the Hockey Lodge and wander around, waiting for the gates to rise. I sit there, waiting, watching the Minnesota Wild staff, reporters, janitors, cameramen and so many others who are allowed to go inside before everybody else. I sit there, jealous, wishing time would go faster. On March 3, 2013, I got to be one of the people who walked through early.

I am part of the MSHSL Student Media program. I write about the sporting events at Brainerd High School. Being an aspiring journalist, I want to take any advantage of real-life experiences I can. John Millea, the Student Media advisor, and the Minnesota Wild set up a day in which four students in the program could go to a Wild game and experience what it’s like to be a reporter. In addition to being a lifelong Wild fan I am a hockey player myself, so I was ecstatic that I was chosen to be part of this group.

We all arrived around five o’clock on that Sunday night. The Minnesota High School Press Association had four of their members join us, as well. The public relations representative for the Wild, Ryan Stanzel, was our guide for the night. He escorted us through the press entrance and up to the Al Shaver Press Box to drop off our things. We were then treated to a pizza buffet in the media dining room. While we were eating I noticed the Fox Sports North TV crew at the table next to us. We got a picture with play-by-play broadcaster Anthony LaPanta. (Pictured, left to right: JoNathan Chartrand, Chisago Lakes; Jared Rubado, Brainerd; Anthony LaPanta; Nick Wagner, Ada-Borup; Zach Halverson, White Bear Lake.)

When we were finished we went into a room right next to the Wild locker room where Ryan introduced us to two very important journalists, Michael Russo, the Star Tribune beat writer for the Wild, and Dave Schwartz, the weekend sports anchor for KARE 11. They explained to us the details of their jobs and what it takes to be a journalist. As an aspiring beat writer for a professional sports team, I’ve always looked up to Michael Russo and I was especially appreciative of the opportunity to talk to him.

When we were finished with our meeting, we went back up to the press box to watch the game. Our booth in the press box was a little crowded so I ventured off to look for an extra seat. I sat down in a row of vacant seats. There was one man sitting four chairs to the left of me. I didn't know who he was until I got a good look at him. I was sitting next to Wild goaltender Josh Harding. He was in the press box because he was injured.

When the game was finished, we observed the postgame press conference from Wild coach Mike Yeo. He straightforwardly answered a few questions, wrapping up the evening for those in attendance.

When that was finished it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes and left the Xcel Energy Center. It was a night I will never forget. I left with new insight into the responsibilities of a sports journalist and I am more excited than ever to start my career.
A Growing List Of Accomplished Coaches3/31/2013
In recent weeks I have listed coaches who have led boys and girls teams to state championships in two different sports. The discussion was sparked when Minneota won the Class 1A girls basketball title; Vikings coach Chad Johnston also coached the Minneota football team to the 2009 Class 1A state championship.

Thanks to input from fans all over the state, we can add these other coaches to the list:

--Apple Valley’s Chuck Scanlon: girls hockey and boys soccer.

--Anoka’s Dave Tank: boys basketball and girls soccer.

--Springfield’s Paul Dunn: Football and softball.

--Hopkins’ Ken Novak Jr.: Boys basketball and girls tennis.

--Rochester Lourdes’ Myron Glass: Girls basketball and boys cross-country.

Are there others we can add to the list? If you know of someone, send an email to jmillea@mshsl.org
‘The Epitome Of The Kind Of Person You Want On Your Team’ 3/21/2013
Ben Albert’s line in the boxscore of the DeLaSalle-St. Paul Johnson basketball game Thursday at Target Center was filled with zeros. The 5-foot-11 DeLaSalle senior got into the game only after the outcome had been determined, played four minutes and did not take a shot, commit a foul, block a shot, get a rebound, etc.

But he represents one reason why the Islanders are one of the best teams in Minnesota high school basketball. They defeated St. Paul Johnson 86-59 and will face Austin on Saturday in an attempt to win their second consecutive Class 3A title and third since 2006.

Albert is an atypical basketball player because he has only one hand; his left arm ends at the elbow. But he is a typical DeLaSalle basketball player because he works hard to make his team better. He is one of three seniors on the team, someone coach Dave Thorson calls a leader.

“People get caught up about what Ben doesn’t have but I like Ben because of what he does have,” Thorson said. “He’s a tremendous leadership guy, he’s in the National Honor Society and he will be the valedictorian or salutatorian of his class.”

Ben played in 18 of the Islanders’ 28 games prior to the state tournament, averaging a little more than one point a game.

“He’s made some threes in a whole bunch of games,” Thorson said. “And he’s one of the kids who are so important to our preparation for games like this. We can’t do that without kids who sell out.

“Ben has to guard (DeLaSalle starters) Jarvis (Johnson), James (Lawson), Sacar (Anim) every day in practice and he competes every day. He is absolutely the epitome of the kind of person you want on your team.”

THE VOICE OF HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

When the 2014 boys state basketball tournament is held, something will be very different along press row. Mike Morrissey of KDHL radio in Faribault has made play-by-play calls of every tournament but one since 1968. That’s 45 years, and that’s how legends are made. The 2013 tournament is his last one before retiring.

Mike is truly a legend. He has been the voice of St. Olaf College, a fixture in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and he is a member of Minnesota Coaches Halls of Fame in three sports (football, basketball and baseball).

Mike missed one tournament long ago when he took a radio job in Nebraska. He returned to Minnesota pretty quickly, however. “I was too far away from civilization,” he said.

Mike, 72, will be spending next winter in Florida. He has promised me that he will send me emails during the 2014 tournament, describing warm breezes and the umbrella in his drink.

Thank you, Mike, for being a gentleman, a true professional and a good friend.

STAYING IN CHARACTER

Upsala High School senior Matt Abeler, along with some of his teammates, are busy with basketball this week but will soon return to performing in the school musical. Abeler is the male lead in “High School Musical” … a story in which his character must choose between his basketball success and his love of music.

Four other members of the Cardinals basketball team are also in the cast. All the basketball success has cut down on rehearsal time for the school play, but they’ll get back to the stage after the tournament.

Upsala defeated Battle Lake 71-60 in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena and will play in the semifinals Friday afternoon at Target Center.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--This has been a pretty good winter for the Fadness family of Austin. Kris, the coach of the Packers boys basketball team, recorded his 300th career victory in the Section 1 championship game and on Thursday the Packers advanced to the state championship with a thrilling 85-65 overtime victory over Marshall. His daughter Sela, a junior at Austin, won the Class 1A all-around championship at the state gymnastics meet last month.

--Musically, Thursday’s games at Target Center began in a special way. The bands from DeLaSalle and St. Paul Johnson sat together and teamed up to play “Crazy Train” as the first tune of the day.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 7 for the tournament, 59 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 554
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,739
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
The Pride Of Brainerd, On The Court And In The Stands 3/20/2013
My favorite moment from the opening day of the boys state basketball tournament took place before the games ever started. My second favorite moment happened after the first game at Target Center had ended. Both involved the Brainerd Warriors.

The Warriors knew they had a tough assignment in the Class 4A quarterfinals. Brainerd was one of three unseeded teams in the field and its opponent was top-seeded Apple Valley and all-everything junior guard Tyus Jones.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was sitting in a front-row seat at Target Center for the 10 a.m. game. That’s nothing new to the Apple Valley team and fans; big-name coaches have been popping in at Eagles games regularly in pursuit of Jones.

But this whole enterprise was something new for the Warriors , who had not been to state since 1991. But they do have their routines, and one of the finest was on display during the national anthem. Most teams simply stand at their bench and line up facing the flag. Warriors coach Scott Stanfield and his crew, however, went to the free throw area in front of their bench, with the coaches standing on the free throw line and the players lined up in a semi-circle on the three-point line. Everybody had their right hand over their heart. It said something about respect, which we can sometimes lose sight of.

The Warriors hung tough with Apple Valley, leading 36-34 at halftime as Jack Sauer hit an NBA-plus three-point shot at the horn. Apple Valley played a better second half and finished with an 81-67 victory behind 19 points, seven assists and six steals by Jones.

After the game ended and the teams shook hands, there was another special moment. The giant contingent from Brainerd -- one of the largest crowds for a quarterfinal game that I remember – stood as one and applauded their boys. And the Warriors stopped for a second or two on the court and waved to their fans before heading to the locker room.

Brainerd has much to be proud of.

UNCHARTED WATERS

Apple Valley’s last trip to state was in 2009, but none of the current players were part of that squad. So it probably wasn’t surprising that the Eagles didn’t get off to the best start against Brainerd.

“We had a lot of jitters early, I think,” said fourth-year coach Zach Goring. “And Brainerd is a good team. They don’t have any superstars but they really play well together.”

Jones, who said the Eagles had to regroup at halftime, scored only four points in the first half but was a highlight reel at times in the second half.

“He clearly was the difference in that game,” Stanfield said. “He was tough on us, and I thought our kids battled hard against him. He sees the court like other high schools kids don’t.”

Jones said, “We got to give a lot of props to Brainerd. That’s an extremely good team and they played well.”

--Apple Valley will meet Eden Prairie in Thursday’s semifinals at Target Center. The Eagles defeated Woodbury behind 20 points by Andre Wallace .

PARK CENTER WINS IN OVERTIME

The best game of the 4A quarterfinals was Park Center’s 74-72 victory over Lakeville North in overtime. North trailed by 19 points in the first half but came out with a flurry after halftime.

Park Center’s Quinton Hooker and Lakeville North’s J.P. Macura traded baskets much of the game; Hooker finished with 29 points and Macura had 26. But the most important shot for Hooker was one he missed.

The Pirates held the ball for the last shot in overtime. Hooker fired from the free throw circle, the ball rattled out and teammate Isaac Mathews tipped it in for only his second field goal of the game.

“When the ball goes up, I try my best to read where it’s going to come off the rim and get in position,” said the 6-foot-4 junior reserve.

--Park Center’s opponent in Thursday’s semifinals will be Edina, which rode the offensive skills of guard Graham Woodward to beat Andover 99-61. Woodward scored 40 points, 32 in the first half. The tournament record for single-game scoring is 51 by AlBrook’s Cory Mountain vs. Maranatha Christian in 2006.

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS

--DeLaSalle 70, Sartell-St. Stephen 55/ Reid Travis had 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Islanders. Parker Hagen led the Sabres with 19 points

--St. Paul Johnson 64, Delano 54/ Quashingm Smith-Pugh had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Governors. Delano’s Dalton Pulis had 20 points.

--Austin 59, Blake 56/ Tom Aase scored 20 points and led a second-half comeback for the Packers. Blake’s JR Bascom had 17 points.

--Marshall 69, Grand Rapids 52/ Riley Sharbono led Marshall with 18 points and Alex Illikainen had 31 for Grand Rapids.

CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS

--Minnehaha Academy 53, Perham 41/ Jesse Johnson scord 13 points for the Redhawks and Tyler Glines had 15 for Perham.

--Litchfield 64, Redwood Valley 55 (2 overtimes)/ Litchfield scored the final 10 points of the second overtime and Zach Kinny led the Dragons with 18 points. Alec Koster led the Cardinals with a game-high 27 points.

--Annandale 56, Byron 42/ Matt Miller led Annandale with 16 points and Jack Nelson had 17 for Byron.

--Esko 60, Hayfield 54/ Kory Deadrick’s 30 points paced the Eskomos and Cole Kruger had 28 for Hayfield.

THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE

Class 3A semifinals at Target Center
Noon/ DeLaSalle vs. St. Paul Johnson 2 p.m./ Austin vs. Marshall

Class 4A semifinals at Target Center
6 p.m./ Apple Valley vs. Eden Prairie 8 p.m./ Park Center vs. Edina

Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena
Maranatha Christian vs. Mountain Lake, 11 a.m.
Rushford-Peterson vs. Lakeview Christian, 1 p.m.
Upsala vs. Battle Lake, 3 p.m.
Southwest Minnesota Christian vs. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, 5 p.m.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Coaches should leave nothing to chance. That’s why Eden Prairie assistant coach Nick Ravn was looking at his cell phone as well as the scoreboard clock as he left the arena floor at halftime. He was synchronizing a stopwatch ap on his phone with the scoreboard, so the Eagles would know how much time they had before returning to the court.

--Target Center is a Pepsi-only building ... but some of my best friends are smugglers. That’s how two 20-ounce Diet Cokes arrived at my courtside location Thursday morning.

--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 for the tournament, 55 for the winter state tournaments
*Schools/teams John has visited: 546
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 7,689
(*During the 2012-13 school year)