VFW baseball blooming around area teams
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
As a catcher for the Cloquet VFW baseball team this summer, Derek Bloom stands close to Coach Nate Windschill, receiving thrown balls and handing them to his coach.
Yet, it was there when Bloom began to witness Windschill’s wearing passion and handle of the game.
Windschill is in his first summer calling the shots for Cloquet, as the middle-aged coach — who still continues to play the game himself — is enjoying his favorite sport.
Sporting his fully tucked-in No. 33 uniform Monday, Windschill watched his team split a doubleheader with Moose Lake at Ed Mettner Field in Cloquet. Despite a first game victory and holding a late lead in game two, Cloquet collapsed in a seventh-inning rally by visiting Moose Lake.
“It was a little disappointing,” said Bloom, an athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pound 16-year-old, who plays outfield during his off days from catching. “We should have had it.”
What Cloquet does have is a solid unit of players. Bloom — who missed two weeks due to a bruised left index finger suffered while playing summer hockey — plays on a 20-man roster this summer, all guided by Coach Windschill.
“At first he didn’t know what to do with us all, but now he’s getting to know us pretty well,” said Bloom, a Cloquet junior this fall. “He knows the game, coaches well and just likes to have fun. I think he’s still a little kid inside.”
Cloquet High School baseball Coach Rick Norrgard, who assists the VFW along with several others, said he heard of Windschill from a recent Proctor baseball camp. With a coaching opening available, Norrgard said he emailed Windschill around March and signed him up.
Fourteen games into the summer, Norrgard is pleased.
“I think the kids like him,” Norrgard said. “[Nate] loves being around them and teaching the game. I help with fundamentals when I can, but I let him manage the team.”
Jim Ryan manages Moose Lake, a team back in existence for the first time in years.
With their come-from-behind win Monday, Moose Lake isn’t playing like a first-year team.
In other area VFW news, Esko also passed by Hibbing in a doubleheader sweep Monday on the road. Coached by Esko High School baseball Coach Ben Haugen and softball Coach Brad Emanuel, Esko has 13 players, who all played last year.
“Brad’s taken the ship and I’ve watched him operate,” Haugen said. “It’s been fun seeing it at a different angle.”