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From his pre-world war II days when, as a player, he attracted the interest of the Philadelphia Phillies organization, through his time as an umpire, manager, general manager, Babe Ruth founder, and the countless other ways he nurtured the sport, Richie Wagener played a major role in the development of baseball in Waconia. Those contributions did not go unnoticed and unappreciated. The man and his work was honored by the Waconia Baseball Association on June 25th, 2000 as the Islanders over 35 baseball team hosts “Richie Wagener Day” at Lions Field in Waconia. The public was invited to celebrate the life of one of the driving forces behind baseball in Waconia in the latter half of the twentieth century.
“He was a real pivotal part of baseball in Waconia for a number of years,” Gary Brandenburg, member of the Islanders at the time of the dedication.
Wagener, who died in July 1999 at the age of 82, was born in Waconia Township and was a strong player on the town’s baseball team. But he was much more than that. His hitting and play in the outfield got him noticed, and the opportunity for him to become part of the Phillies minor league roster arose.
Wagener answered a different calling however. World War II was raging and he was needed first on the farm, then at the front. He fought for his country in North Africa, on Normandy Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge. Wagener was wounded in action, bringing an end to any hope of a professional baseball career, be he never lost his passion for the game and continued to spread that love to others throughout the rest of his life.
At the time of his death, Wagener’s family decided to donate $500 on his behalf to the Islanders baseball team, a gesture they believed he would have like and that would have made him happy.
“Once we got the donation we thought of all the guys who have done so much in the past and how we could honor them,” Brandenburg said.
The team decided to pick one day each year to recognize the efforts of those players. This year is the first edition of what will become an annual event, and the Islanders could think of no one more worthy of being honored at this inaugural celebration than Richie Wagener.
“It’s a very nice honor for him to be recognized in such a way,” his son Pat Wagener said. “He made it possible for a whole lot of kids to play baseball. He was proud of his contributions to the kids and to the community.”
Wagener’s tireless dedication on behalf of the sport, and more importantly those who played and supported it, helps ensure the prominent place he will always occupy in Waconia’s baseball heritage.
Waconia Baseball Associations 2nd honorary for the Wall of Fame is Bob Wyttenhove. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College, Bob moved to Waconia in 1957, was a physical education teacher at high school. He was the head basketball coach and an assistant football coach at Waconia from 1957 to the early 1960s. Bob was the assistant baseball coach from 1957 to 1969 and became the head coach in 1970, where he held that honor until 1974.
In 1957 Bob helped the Waconia Town Team sell refreshments, cut grass, stock ice at the pop and beer stand. In 1962, he started a traveling T-Ball team competing against area communities. Then in the mid-1960s he organized and coached a traveling little league team, highlighted by tournament appearances in Sioux Falls, SD in 1967 and Eau Claire, WI in 1968. At the same time he organized the Waconia Bantam Athletic Association.
Bob was instrumental in building the three baseball fields behind the high school (currently Bayview Elementary School) in the 1960’s and served on the Waconia Town Team Board of Directors.
Bob also served time with the US Navy in Korea.
Bob was sick on the day of his dedication into the Waconia Baseball Association’s “Wall of Fame” at Lion’s Field. Bob passed away on July 3rd, 2001 at the age of 71.
Hubie Kelzer was added to the Wall of Fame at Lion’s Field on July 13th, 2002. Hubie played town team baseball from 1942-1966. During this time he managed the team for several years while playing third base and outfield. He attended four All-Star games and volunteered for numerous committees and baseball activities. Hubie still holds the record for 16 home runs in 24 games, all with a wood bat. Hubie Kelzer celebrated his 90th birthday in February 2014.
Dick Mingo started his 30+ year teaching and coaching career at Waconia. Dick spent 10 years at Waconia High School from 1958-1968. During his 10 years as head baseball coach at Waconia High School, Dick compiled a record of 104-52-2. His teams won 3 Conference Championships, and were Conference Co-Champions 3 times. After coaching at Waconia, Dick went on to coach at Bloomington Kennedy, Lincoln and Jefferson. It was at Bloomington Jefferson where Dick spent 16 seasons of his career where he was 158-136 with 3 Conference/Co-Conference Champions, as well District 18 Champions and in 1985 his team placed 3rd at the State Tournament.
Mingo spent 3 years playing college baseball and 20 years in Amateur and Semi-Pro Baseball.
Dick may be known most for what he did outside of his baseball teams. He originated and managed Minnesota Lions High School All-Star Baseball Tournament for 25 years. During his 25 years as managing director, this tournament raised $200,000 for the Minnesota Lions Children’s Eye Clinic at the University of Minnesota. Dick also spent 15 years as a clinician for the Minnesota Twins baseball clinics.
In 1951 Mingo was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. Dick received a Purple Heart Medal for his time in the Army after being wounded by shrapnel.
*A graduate of Minneapolis West High School and Hamline University. Mingo served five years as an assistant and 28 years as a head coach, spending time in St. James, Waconia, Bloomington Kennedy, Bloomington Lincoln and Bloomington Jefferson. It was at Jefferson where Mingo spent most of his coaching career. Mingo’s teams won nearly 300 games, but he is probably even more remembered for his work with the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association and the Lions High School All-Star Games. From 1964 through 1972, Mingo was executive secretary of the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association and he was president of the association for two years. He is a past winner of the Dick Siebert Award. Mingo was one of the originators of the Minnesota Lions High School All Star Tournament and was the managing director for 25 years. He also served as a clinician for the Minnesota Twins touring summer clinics for 15 years.
*Courtesy of Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association
Bob Leivermann joined the Waconia Baseball Associations Wall of Fame in 2004. Bob may be known more recently for having the only Barbershop in Waconia, Bob’s Barbershop, with his son, Mike. Before his days as the “barber” he was a force on the baseball field. Bob was a member of the Waconia Lakers from 1956-1966. His batting average ranged from .348 to .563. To highlight his hitting career, Bob hit 2 homeruns and had 10 RBI’s in a game during the 1958 season. When the games were being played at the fairgrounds, currently the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia, he hit a ball over the front entrance gait of the fair grounds.
During a game played at the old high school field (behind the current Bayview Elementary field, rumor has it he also hit a baseball into Lake Wacoina (the ball was never found).
Not only was Bob a force at the plate, he was also tremendous on the mound. In a game against the Monks at St. Paul Bible College he struck out 27 straight batters. They say the robes of the Monks got in the way of the batters.
Bob was not only involved in baseball, he had a very large passion for golf and football. Bob was an avid golfer at Island View and would even close his barbershop on Mondays so he could golf that day. He was very active in the youth golf program and passed that passion on to many kids including his own children and grandchildren. Bob’s grandchildren have been successful golfers as well.
Bob’s induction day was our most attended day of the Wall of Fame, showing the large impact and respect he had on the Waconia community and the Waconia Baseball Association. Bob passed away in December 2009 at the young age of 70.
In 2005, the Waconia Baseball Association added Champ Fahse to the Wall of Fame. Champ passed away on January 1, 1990. Champ was known for his many sporting achievements. Champ played in 3 horseshoe World Tournaments from 1985-1987, he was also an all-star basketball player, and bowler. Champ was a top TV Champion of Bowlerama; he held his championship status for 4 weeks. He received a championship trophy, $100 worth of silver dollars and a bonus of $75 more of silver dollars. Champ was considered Waconia’s first TV star. Champ was also able to ride a bike while juggling 3 baseballs.
Although he was multi-talented, it is his baseball career being honored. Champ played college baseball at the University of Minnesota, in 1945 while at the University of Minnesota, Champ and his teammate Mammer caught the eyes of the Philadelphia Phillies scouts for their great hitting and fielding.
Champ however had the misfortune of fracturing his finger, which robbed him of his chance to go to the majors. While Mammer went on to play shortstop for the Phillies. Although Champ did not get a chance to play professional baseball with the Phillies, he did play for the Marion Diggers of the Ohio State League. Champ led the league in hitting his first year with a .343 batting average in 1944. He continued to play in the minors until 1948. In 1948, Champ was offered to join the Omaha Cardinals organization and did. (See letter)
Champ played for many years with the Waconia Lakers and a few with the Watertown town team. Champ was a first basemen and was know for his acrobatic catches, such as catching a fly ball behind his back or catching a throw to first base behind his back. Champ would often find ways to upset his manager at the time, Dick Mingo, the two of them would have some heated discussions over these acrobatic catches. Champ continued to play town team baseball into the 1960s and was somehow involved in baseball the rest of his life.
Congratulations Champ Fahse our 2005 inductee, “You made it!”
Howie Hill was inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2006. For Howie, baseball was part of everyday life. Either as a player or fan, if there were a game that day Howie would try to be there. Howie played for Waconia from the 1940s to the 1950s. At this time Waconia’s town team was named the Millers, because Howie and other players got free uniforms from the old Minneapolis Millers baseball team.
As a player Howie was a dominating left-handed pitcher for Waconia. Howie threw a 2 hit shutout to win the league championship game vs. Mayer. Over his years as a player, Howie was the ace of the staff and threw many 2 and 4 hit shutout performances. If Howie was not pitching you could find him as a staple at first base.
Howie attended almost all of Waconia High School baseball games as well as almost all the town team games. Howie would talk and promote Waconia baseball wherever he would go.
In the 1980s when Waconia Lakers were struggling as an organization, Howie would be the only fan at the games. And after the games, he would always tell the team it sure was good to watch you play. On Sundays when the Lakers would be out of town, Howie would take his family on a nice Sunday afternoon drive. They would end up at some baseball game. To Howie it did not matter who was playing it was baseball and that is what mattered to Howie. Many baseball fans get caught up in stats of baseball; how many hits we get or how many errors there were, NOT Howie, with Howie it was the game; it always was about the game no matter the outcome.
“I am so very proud to be able to do my last dedication to my second Dad! The truest of baseball fans! My #1 Fan! And Waconia’s #1 Fan! Howie Hill!” – Gary Brandenburg (organized all previous Wall of Fame dedication ceremonies, this was his final dedication. Gary was a part of baseball in Waconia for over 40 years, as a player and coach. From little league in Waconia to the Chiefs to the Lakers and the Islanders, as well as a stint as a Manager for the Waconia Lakers.)
With over 40 years of baseball experience in Waconia, Gary Brandenburg was inducted into the Waconia Baseball Association’s Wall of Fame in 2014. Gary’s baseball career started at the age of 9 and his playing career ended at the age of 50. During the 40+ years of baseball he was not only a player, but he also coached at the same time as well. Gary coached the Waconia Lakers in two different stints, from 1980-84 and in the current era from 2001-2005. Not only was Gary involved with baseball, he also coached youth football and wrestling for over 30 years in Waconia, and even a short football coaching stint at Crown College.
When Gary started his playing career, he never thought he would stop, but during his Junior and Senior years of high school his football coach thought he should go out for track and field. Gary’s passion for baseball never stopped and after that he kept playing amateur baseball for the Waconia Lakers, his playing career was from 1972-1984. In those years, Gary mostly played 1st base, but dabbled at 2nd, 3rd and in the outfield. To this day, Gary believes the best athletes on the field play 1st base! In a game against the Chaska Cubs in 1981 Gary went 4-4 with 3 homeruns and a double. In 1982, Gary led the league in homeruns. One of his highlighted homeruns was in Jordan, where he hit the ball over the center field fence and over the trees out in center field, which was one of the farthest balls hit at Jordan’s Mini Met Park. During his Lakers career he played in 4 all-star games, 2 in which he started. After the 1984 season, Gary played modified fast-pitch softball for many years, up until his passion for baseball returned with the first over-35 baseball team in Waconia. From 1995-2006, Gary played for the Waconia Islanders, during this time Gary played 1st base and 3rd base.
Not only was Gary passionate about playing and coaching baseball, but he was very passionate about the future of baseball in Waconia. After many painstaking years of watching, playing and/or coaching baseball at the field behind the current Bayview Elementary School in Waconia, Gary was a part of the original group of guys that helped build the current Lion’s Field and make the future of baseball in Waconia better than it was when he grew up. Gary wanted to give his 2 boys a great field to call home when they were in high school and amateur baseball for the Waconia Lakers. Gary’s passion for baseball continued to his kids, Josh and Joe, played many years with the Waconia Lakers and currently now play for Watertown Red Devils.
It was Gary’s idea to begin a new baseball tradition in Waconia and that is Waconia Baseball Association’s Wall of Fame. Gary’s goal was to bring back the passion for baseball in Waconia that he saw when he grew up as a kid in Waconia. In 2000, the first induction occurred and that tradition stopped after 2006 when Gary decided to hand that tradition over to someone else. In 2014, the Waconia Baseball Association decided it was important to resume the tradition over again and decided who better to be inducted than Gary Brandenburg, who has been important to the success and growth of baseball in Waconia and at Lion’s Field.
The passion that JC Chrest has for baseball and Lion’s Field is indescribable. He would drive by or stop by the field daily. He spent countless hours at the field playing, couching and maintaining the field. JC’s been involved with Waconia baseball since 1995. In the early days he started the over 35 baseball team, Waconia Islanders, where he was a player/manager until 2008. He also coached the Waconia Lakers from 20001-2008. During that time the team won 6 division or league titles (2001-2006). During JC’s coaching term was the first time the Lakers had a winning season and won division/league titles.
JC was Vice President of the Waconia Baseball Association from 1999-2001 and president from 2001-2009. During his time as President he raised money for Lion’s Field including to fund the field lights, the previous press box and concession stand, and started signage advertising at the field.
JC was also involved with the youth programs, coaching youth baseball, basketball and football as well as metro baseball. A current active member of the Waconia Lions Club, JC has been a member since 1989. He was Lion’s President in 1992. During his time as president he started the Take-A-Kid Fishing program and the tradition of the Lions members wearing their signature yellow vests at events. JC was a Waconia High School Booster member from 2000-2004 while his 2 sons attended WHS.
JC is the father of 2 boys who graduated from Waconia High School. His oldest son, Dan, graduated in 2001 and was a member of the Waconia Lakers from 1998-2008 when he moved to Omaha. His youngest son, Jeff, graduated from Waconia in 2004 and has been a member of the Waconia Lakers since 2000 and is currently still playing.
JC’s passion for baseball and community involvement was shared with his kids. JC is still involved with the Waconia Baseball Association volunteering his time in the press box, concession stand or just spending time at the ballpark.
|2014||Blake Pistulka||Mayville State|
|2014||Sam Schiffman||Bemidji State University||Catcher|
|2013||Josh Lenz||Concordia University - St. Paul|
|2012||Dalton Sawyer||Oakland A's/ University of Minnesota||Pitcher|
|2008||Joe Brandenburg||Concordia University - Nebraska|
|2007||Robbie Smothers||University of Minnesota - Crookston / Vermilion CC|
|2005||Brady Gibbs||University of St. Thomas|
|2005||Craig LaPlante||Mesabi Range CTC|
|2004||Ben Smothers||Winona St. University|
|2004||Chris Bullis||University of St. Thomas|
|2003||Andrew Frederickson||Winona St. University|
|2001||Dan Chrest||Gustavus Adolphus College|
|2001||Drew Gulden||Vermilion CC|
|2000||Kyle Ague||Crown College|
|1998||Andy Larson||Bethany Lutheran|
|1996||Steve Marsden||Bethany Lutheran|
|1993||Peter Hilgers||Mankato State University|
|1993||Randy Razidlo||Concordia College - Moorhead|
|1991||Chris Hart||Mankato State University|
|1987||Bill Koppi||Mankato State University|
|Year||Player / Coach||Position|
|2015||Jake Stevenson||Pitcher||AAA Player of the Year|
|2012||Dalton Sawyer||Pitcher||Tournament MVP|
|2002||Luke Schiller||3rd Base|
|2002||Mark Grundhofer||Coach||Tournament Coach|
|1994||Steve Hullander||Coach||Tournament Coach|
If you or someone you know played baseball in college or the pros please submit your information by clicking the link below:
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Thanks for supporting Waconia Baseball Association and welcome to the Waconia Baseball Family. Glad to have you back!