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Moving on, moving up

Ron Tondryk has a reputation as a teacher of the game of softball. Now, he's getting the chance to teach at a higher level.

Tondryk is the new head softball coach at Cloquet, stepping up from his assistant's role over the last three years for Steph Sklors to take the helm himself.

It's a nice tribute for someone who has given a lot of time - and a lot of himself - to the game through the years.

Tondryk has been the driving force behind the Minnesota Xplosion team for approximately nine years. Made up of players from around the area, the team is one that Tondryk loves to coach - but also one that seemed to develop a life of its own.

"I'm ready for the transition," he said. "I like working with the Xplosion but the thing of it was, we had a number of kids keep coming back to the team looking for a place to play summer ball."

The first item on the agenda in 2010, though, is the Cloquet Lumberjacks.

"I think I have a good handle on what it takes to keep the tradition going," he said. "We've built something good here over the last 10 to 12 years."

To keep it all going, Tondryk will need to keep his penchant for teaching alive.

"I think I know where the kids need work," he said. "I think I'm strong on the fundamentals but the best thing we have going for us is that we have a great bunch of kids."

And speaking of kids - Tondryk's daughter Brooke is also in the coaching game, at Carlton.

The father-daughter relationship is obviously a proud one, and the elder Tondryk is full of praise for his daughter's work.

"We don't play them this season but we do scrimmage them," he said. "I've seen her coach and she does a great job. From a dad standpoint that's great. She's developing a nice program there."

Then, he paused.

"Maybe we don't want to play them," he laughed.

Humor aside, Tondryk is optimistic about the team he's inheriting.

"They will make some mistakes," he said. "But, I think with a young bunch of kids, they need maturity and time on the field. I'm adding in a few new things each day, we're learning each week and I know the kids will benefit from it."

It's ironic, in a way, in that some of the summer ball teams Tondryk has coached - and coached against - have helped his high school kids improve their games.

"We've had some real good summer programs around here over the last couple of years," he said. "Hopefully I will be able to take this team to the next level."