John's Journal
A Ballgame, A New Friend and Great Memories4/16/2010
I love to tell people that I can spend a few minutes with any team in any sport at any high school in Minnesota and find a great story. Turns out all you have to do is sit in the bleachers and the same thing can happen.

I went to a baseball game at Osseo High School on Thursday afternoon. The Orioles played Champlin Park on a lovely sunny day. I went to the ballgame with a couple of future story possibilities in mind.

There were Osseo’s Windle twins, Tom and Sam. Tom, who throws and bats lefthanded, has signed to play baseball with the University of Minnesota. Sam, who throws and bats righthanded, has signed to play baseball with North Dakota State. Both twins play hockey, too.

There was speedy Champlin Park center fielder Brandon Marquardt, a running back and Mr. Football finalist who will play football at Minnesota State Mankato.

And then there was Harry Beier. (That's him in the photo).

Osseo athletic/activities director Ray Kirch had sprung for hot dogs, and as we walked to the bleachers he said, “John, do you know Harry Beier?” I did not, so Ray introduced me to an older gentleman sitting in the first row. Ray had other things to attend to, but Harry and I chatted for the rest of the game.

Harry graduated from Osseo High School in 1941. Sixty-nine years ago, he played baseball on the same field the current Orioles use. He was a multi-sport athlete -- also playing football and basketball in high school – providing another link to current athletes like the Windle twins and Brandon Marquardt.

Harry was a pitcher who relied on a fastball. At the plate, he tried to hit the ball where it was pitched, spraying hits all over the field.

You could see the sparkle in his eye as we watched the kids from Osseo and Champlin Park play the game. There are people similar to Harry at almost every high school in America; alumni who have strong ties to their school and their community and love nothing more than remaining connected.

Champlin Park senior Tyler Ockuly pitched a two-hitter in the Rebels’ 11-2 victory, striking out the side in the fourth inning. When Osseo athletic trainer Lindsey Geesaman came onto the field to tend to an injured Champlin Park player, a mom sitting nearby said with an air of awe, “She’s at every game.” A young girl replied, “She is so cool.”

Harry and I took it all in as we chatted. He was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating from high school and spent two and a half years stationed in England. “I bought myself a bicycle and saw all the towns around the area,” he said.

One of his high school coaches always told the kids – remember, this was back in the 1930s and 1940s – that smoking was a bad idea. “I never did smoke, even in the service,” Harry said. “I saw that coach at reunions and thanked him for that.”

Harry, who was an employee of the University of Minnesota for 42 years, has seen every Gophers home football game since 1947. He knows almost everybody at the university, from President Robert Bruininks on down. He likesTCF Bank Stadium, but he liked the Metrodome, too.

Between innings, music was played on the P.A. system. The baseball field was well-manicured, the sunshine was warm and the breeze was sweet.

It was a perfect day to be at a high school event.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan


Minneapolis Schools Team Up For Turf4/15/2010
Minneapolis Public Schools have begun efforts to raise funds in order to install turf fields at two high school football fields. The program is called “Team Up For Turf: Funding Fields For The Future.”

The Minneapolis Public Schools have committed to raising $1.25 million to convert the football fields at Washburn High School and Patrick Henry High School to state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields to suit football, soccer and lacrosse games. By 2013, MPS hopes to raise enough additional funds to cover the cost of at least one more synthetic turf project. All fields would be available for the use of schools, parks and Minneapolis youth.

Why turf fields?
The current MPS high school natural grass fields are difficult to maintain.
• High costs for maintenance and equipment
• Athletes and teams have limited use of fields during upkeep process
• High traffic areas of the field are worn and have difficulty sustaining new grass
• Uneven ground may cause impact injuries

Benefits of synthetic turf:
• Reduced maintenance costs - no watering, mowing, fertilizers or pesticides required
• Safe and uniform playing surface
• Multiple opportunities for a variety of field events (football, soccer, lacrosse)
• Increased field usage (no down time)
• Enhances the reputation of MPS athletics

A special fund for the Team Up for Turf campaign has been established at
AchieveMpls. AchieveMpls is the Minneapolis Public School’s authorized and
designated intermediary foundation and handles donations and grants for MPS
students and programs. Contributions toward Team Up for Turf are tax deductible.

For more information about the campaign, please contact the Minneapolis Public Schools Office of Resource Development & Innovation at 612-668-0214 or at rdi@mpls.k12.mn.us

To make an online donation, go to www.achievempls.org/getinvolved/donate. Click on “Donate Online Now,” select “A school, program or fund” and type “Team up for Turf” in the description box provided.

The Team Up for Turf campaign will begin with a kick-off contest on:
Tuesday, May 4
3-4 p.m.
Patrick Henry High School football field
4320 Newton Avenue North, Minneapolis

Join other members of the community and the school district as we ‘kick off’ our efforts with a football, soccer and lacrosse kick-off contest. Children and adults are welcome, and prizes will be awarded to all who participate.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

Park High School to Dedicate Softball Field4/14/2010
Here’s an announcement from Park High School …

Charlie Whitbred, who retired as the softball coach at Park High School in Cottage Grove in 2009, will be honored Monday when the school’s softball field is dedicated in his honor.

The Park Wolfpack softball team will play East Ridge at 4:15 p.m. Monday. A short ceremony honoring Charlie, including the unveiling of the dedication sign naming the field after Whitbred, will be held at 4 p.m.

Whitbred, a 1968 graduate of Park, coached softball at the school for 29 years. During that time he compiled a record of 525 wins and 165 losses. His teams won 13 conference titles and 13 section titles. Whitbred led Park to a state championship in 1993. During Park’s 13 state tournament appearances, Whitbred’s teams also finished with four second-place finishes, three third places, one fourth place and one consolation title.

Charlie was voted the Minnesota Coach of the Year in 1993 and was the section coach of the year 12 times. He retired after the 2009 season with the most wins ever by any Class AAA coach in the state. To put it into perspective, a coach would have to win more than 20 games every year for 26 years in order to reach Whitbred’s total. “Whit” will be inducted in to the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame this year.

There will be an informal reception after the game at the American Legion Post in St. Paul Park.

John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Ben and Logan: Our Test Pilots4/13/2010
Ben Arens and Logan Suko, both ninth-graders from Rockford High School, are the first “test pilots” for a new program at the MSHSL. The program is called Student Sports Information Directors, and Ben and Logan helped the program take its first steps this morning.

Spring Area Meetings – in which MSHSL staff updates school representatives at gatherings held around the state – began this morning at Edinburgh USA Golf Course in Brooklyn Park. Athletic/activity directors from schools in the Twin Cities area gathered for the meeting, and Ben and Logan came to the event with Rockford activities director Mike Tauber.

A small number of schools were invited to bring students to the area meeting; similar invitations are being issued for the rest of the upcoming area meetings, which will be held in Mankato, Marshall, Rochester, Thief River Falls, Fergus Falls, Brainerd and Chisholm. Ben and Logan accompanied Mike Tauber to today’s gathering, and MSHSL Director of Information Howard Voigt and I sat down with Ben and Logan in the Edinburgh USA café while the area meeting was held in a nearby conference room.

We talked very informally about the Student SID program. Logan and Ben are both multi-sport athletes who are interested in journalism, writing and sports, so they are a perfect fit for the new program. One of the goals of the Student SID program is to have students from every high school in Minnesota write about their school’s athletic and activity programs, with their bylined stories appearing on their school’s homepage on the MSHSL website.

We hope to find students who enjoy writing and show a talent for journalism, along with teachers who will guide and encourage them.

Ultimately, we hope schools will have Student SIDs in each class, ninth through 12th grade, providing continuity and peer training as the program continues year by year.

At this point, we are taking the first small steps to get the program off the ground. No high school governing body in the nation has a program like this, and we are very excited about what began this morning with Ben and Logan.

John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Live Updates from Board of Directors Meeting4/12/2010
The MSHSL board of directors will meet this morning, with the gavel dropping at 9:30 a.m.

I'll be providing live updates from the meeting.

The agenda includes a discussion -- and possible action -- on the new travel policy and final approval of the state championship baseball games being played at Target Field.

The discussion items include possible changes in the tournament format for Class 4A state basketball and an update from the Football Task Force.