Longtime coach Kerry Rodd retires from coaching … for nowWhen asked how many games he has coached over his 37-year career on the diamond, Kerry Rodd hesitated for a moment.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
When asked how many games he has coached over his 37-year career on the diamond, Kerry Rodd hesitated for a moment.
“Holy cow,” he said. “It has to be well into the thousands.
Since 1975, the Cloquet native seems to have coached everything under the sun. From instructing 10-year-olds to college kids, coaching has always been where his heart lies.
While his passion for coaching will never leave, the 54-year-old Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College softball coach decided earlier this spring he would step down at the end of the season.
“I started coaching when I was 17,” Rodd said, “and since then, it’s been going non-stop for the last 30 years.”
Rodd said he’s retiring from the coaching ranks because of the time commitment involved, and because he wants to spend more time with his family.
“I have a grandson that I want to spend more time with,” he said of Nolan. “I haven’t had a summer or spring off since I started this, but coaching is something you wouldn’t do if you didn’t enjoy it.”
Rodd began coaching Little League baseball while still in high school. He later learned the game of fastpitch softball, which ultimately became Rodd’s sport of choice – coaching, playing and watching.
“If you said I could watch a women’s fastpitch game or a Major League Baseball game on ESPN, I would choose fastpitch, by far,” Rodd said. “It’s such a fast game where so much can happen in such a little space.”
Rodd, along with good friend and current Cloquet High School softball coach Ron Tondryk, began coaching their daughters’ fastpitch softball teams in the early 1990s.
Rodd’s daughters, Chelsey and Katie, and Tondryk’s daughters, Brooke and Sarah, played for around half a dozen years together. Rodd said they won the state championships as 12- and 13-year-olds.
That’s one thing Brooke Lee remembers best about Rodd. The now 27-year-old married mother said her coach remembers everything.
“For example, he would always remind us of that one time in Mankato in ’93 when we ‘made that play and won that game,’” Lee laughed. “I couldn’t tell you what happened two years ago. But that’s Kerry. He remembers it all.”
Lee was eventually the star hurler for the last Cloquet team to qualify for the state tournament in 2002. Her younger sister, now Sarah Wondrasek, was also a part of that squad, along with Rodd’s daughters.
“All that those girls would do is play ball,” Rodd said. “I remember Ron and I were coaching one younger and one older team, meeting in the parking lot, switching bags and asking how each other did. Ron would say ‘We won’ and I would say back ‘Well, we won by more.’ That’s how things went.”
Ron said he has good memories of those days.
“He has done a lot for the sport over the years,” Tondryk said. “I can say there aren’t many guys around here who have put more time into girls softball in this area than Kerry Rodd.”
Rodd said he also got to coach his nieces, Tiff and Denise Rodd, who also won summer state titles. Rodd said volunteer coaches played an important role in those runs, including his brother, Scott Rodd, as well as Steve Jezierski and Joel Korby.
It was shortly after his youth coaching stints that Rodd was offered the inaugural head position at FDLTCC in 2008. Over his five years at the helm, Rodd has built the Thunder up from scratch, producing four All-Region selections, one All-American and qualifying for the state tournament in 2009. It remains the only state event in FDLTCC school history.
“You can tell that he really loves the game and it’s been a part of his life for a long time,” second-year Thunder Athletic Director Keith Turner said. “You will always see him in between innings correcting something.”
Turner said – in his two years at the college – Rodd has been great, continually recruiting, being competitive and keeping the program on track. Yet, Turner said his most impressive feats have come off the field.
“A lot of people look at the wins and losses,” Turner said, “but if you look at where these girls are at after playing in this program and you see how many have graduated and gone on to four-year schools, that’s probably the most impressive thing he has done in his time here.”
Lee said it was Rodd’s second voice that always helped her growing up.