Cromwell-Wright players team up with McGregorGrowing up at his Island Lake home in rural Cromwell, Mike Hedin vividly remembers the days of playing catch with his older brother John for hours on end.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CROMWELL – Growing up at his Island Lake home in rural Cromwell, Mike Hedin vividly remembers the days of playing catch with his older brother John for hours on end.
“We threw the ball around all the time,” said the Cromwell-Wright senior. “I started playing when I was little.”
However, because of a lack of numbers and competitiveness, Cromwell-Wright High School cancelled its baseball program this spring. Not Hedin, though. He just travels 20 miles down Highway 210 to McGregor.
According to Cromwell-Wright Athletic Director Bill Pocernich, the Cardinals’ program has struggled to field a team in recent years. After only getting Hedin and fellow senior Pat Dahl – who joined the McGregor squad Monday – to sign up, Pocernich knew it was time to hang it up.
“Our numbers for baseball have been low for a while,” Pocernich said. “Our enrollment is low. We have a lot of boys out for track, but not baseball.”
That said, Pocernich quickly heard that McGregor, also in the Polar League, was interested in forming a new cooperative team this spring called McGregor-Cromwell-Wright.
“We thought a co-op would be a good idea,” continued Pocernich. “Both school boards signed off and here we are. Our goal was to let the kids who really wanted to play, to get the opportunity to continue playing.”
No one likes to play more than Hedin.
“I love baseball,” said the three-sport athlete, who also competes in football and basketball for the Cardinals. “And I’d like to thank McGregor for allowing me to play for them. I’m excited.”
Hedin is entering his fourth year of varsity baseball. He’s a right-handed pitcher who thrives on the mound. Although he can hit and field, to him, being on the hill is his favorite thing to do.
“I like to control the game,” Hedin said, noting that he throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, along with his curveball and off-speed knuckleball. “My curve needs a little work, but my knuckle makes kids look silly.”
Hedin learned his array of pitches in the Cromwell Little League program.
“I had 22 strikeouts one game,” he laughed. “I set the league record.”
A year ago, Hedin was the winning pitcher in the Cardinals only win on the diamond. Surprisingly, it was an 8-7 thriller over their league nemesis, McGregor. But most of his teammates were younger and times were disappointing.
“We had some long innings,” said Hedin. “We had a lot of younger kids and it really wasn’t a varsity program you could say. I was a little upset when I heard it was closing this year, but I’m excited to play in McGregor.”
With both Hedin and Dahl being pitchers, the Mercuries are equally excited.
“They’re both athletic kids,” said McGregor-Cromwell-Wright coach Jon Jacobs. “I think that they both will be able to contribute offensively and give us some pitching depth that we’ll need. I don’t know much about them, but I like what I’ve seen.”
Terry Sawdey coached the Cardinals last spring, and offers this scouting report.
“Pat did well, is tough, and works hard,” he said. “And Mike is just a tremendous athlete. It doesn’t surprise me that they’re still playing over there.”
Mike’s father, Stacy Hedin, isn’t surprised either.
“Mike has played against them for a while growing up,” he said, laughing about facing the Mercuries each year. “But I think it’s really nice that he can now play with them. I’m glad he’s there. McGregor has some nice kids.”
And although Mike was the winning hurler last spring against the Mercuries, as well as a standout running back this past fall when the Cardinals upset McGregor to go to state in football, he’s gotten a warm welcome from his new teammates.
“They treat me well,” Mike said, “and I treat them well.”
Jacobs is pleased with the way his boys have welcomed the new pair.
“I’m real happy with how the kids responded to it,” Jacobs said. “They’re rivals, but it’s nice to know they can put that stuff aside and know that these guys can play with us and contribute.”
It took a little while, but Mike finally found the gym the first day.
“I got lost in the school,” Mike laughed.
When games begin, Stacy will likely don a Mercuries cap in the stands, like his son.
“I’ll be rooting for McGregor,” he said.
Mike will play for another new team next fall when he enrolls at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to play football.
Right now, however, he’s focused on his current teammates.
“I think if we set our minds to baseball, we can be pretty good,” Mike said. “These guys know what they are doing. Now, we’re just excited to get outside.”
Outdoors or not, Mike’s just thankful to be on a diamond somewhere.
“Baseball is one of my favorite sports, and not a lot kids play in Cromwell,” he said. “I’m excited to play with these guys. And really, I’m just blessed.”