Lumberjacks’ Hagen is helping his hometownEric Hagen, former four-year varsity pitcher for the Lumberjacks, who then threw collegiately for the College of St. Scholastica, has returned as an assistant coach for Cloquet.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Since the first time he saw 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson sling his major league fastball over the plate at the Metrodome, Cloquet’s Eric Hagen has wanted to be just like the dominant left-hander.
“That’s the day I wanted to become a pitcher,” said Hagen, who stands 6 feet tall. “Unfortunately, I ended up a few inches short.”
Hagen, however, has been instrumental with the Cloquet baseball program over time. A former four-year varsity pitcher for the Lumberjacks, Hagen then threw collegiately for the College of St. Scholastica. Now the 27-year-old has returned as an assistant coach for Cloquet.
Hagen— who with his fastball, curve and changeup still holds the Saints’ career earned run average record at a minuscule 1.51 — knows pitching as well as his left hand. Crediting the coaches he grew up with and learned from, Hagen is in his second season working with the Cloquet pitchers and teaching the game.
Hagen’s father, Milt, taught him the game beginning at young age. The two would play catch for hours at their Cloquet home where they eventually built a pitcher’s mound and added a rubber to practice on. Quickly, it became Hagen’s favorite sport.
“My dad and I were out there every single night throwing between our two trees,” Hagen said. “I think it was exactly 60 feet from one end of the yard to the other. We played almost every day.”
Tuesday found the Cloquet team still practicing indoors, but second-year head coach Rick Norrgard said — with the help of fellow coaches Dennis Rule and Brent Pokornowski — the baseball team is getting better.
“I think that I have a great staff — I’m lucky,” Norrgard said. “We’re all continuing to build the winning program [we inherited] from the coaches here before us and want the kids to be part of it.”
One of those kids, sophomore pitcher Brandon Conklin, said Hagen has been beneficial in his growth on the mound.
“He’s helped me gain additional velocity, better my location of the ball and is able to keep me cool,” said Conklin, who — like Hagen used to — throws 80-plus miles per hour. “He’s very dedicated and knows his stuff. He’s definitely a big influence.
“Someday I’d like to know what he knows,” he continued.
After meeting summers ago while working for Carlton County together, Norrgard asked Hagen to help coach, knowing his experience with the game and youthfulness would be valuable.
“He’s almost like one of the kids,” added senior shortstop Kaleb Kadelbach, who plans on playing baseball in college next year. “He’s easy going, but is able to keep us in line. Coach Hagen is just a good coach; he’s a baseball guy.”
“Whether I’m coaching or watching the Twins, baseball never stops,” Hagen said. “It’s exciting to be back in a program that raised me. Really, I’m just lucky to be part of this again.”