No one can say that Ron Tondryk hasn’t put in his time.

After 31 years as a softball coach in the Cloquet program including the last 10 as head coach, Tondryk has resigned. And when he says he did it to spend more time with his family, it’s very easy to understand why.

“All the programs I ran, summer, spring, the Ashley (Abrahamson) tournament — everything,” Tondryk said. “I’ve had one summer off in the last 31 years and it’s just time.”

Tondryk coached the Lumberjacks to a pair of third-place state finishes in his tenure, including this most recent season, and all the hard work produced a number of very good players — and a gap that it’s now time for him to fill.

“I have grandkids now and both my daughters live out of state,” Tondryk said. “It’s time for them. It’s time for my family.”

His daughters, Brooke and Sara, were teammates on Cloquet’s 2002 team. Brooke pitched as a senior and Sara was the designated hitter and sometime leftfielder as a freshman. That will be one of their father’s best memories.

“We had a great team then; we had a great team this year; and we had a lot of great kids,” Tondryk said. “It has been a real pleasure.”

Tondryk works in real estate for Coldwell Banker East West Realty in Cloquet and he said the summer grind was also starting to take a toll.

“I think I made the right decision - we had a nice run.”

“I needed to concentrate on my job fully as well, and it’s time to do that, too,” he said. “Everyone has been very understanding and that’s been terrific, too.”

With his daughters living in Seattle and Ankeny, Iowa, it’s time for some travel.

“My wife has traveled with me, but for softball,” Tondryk said. “I remember her picking me up in Brainerd after one game only to drive to Iowa together. She’s sacrificed a lot so I can coach.”

But while you can take the coach out of the game, it’s harder to take the game out of the coach. Tondryk will miss the daily interaction with his players and, in essence, calling the shots.

“Ask me in May or June if I miss it, but yes, I think I will,” he said. “I resigned last month but still have a couple of regrets about it. One is the interaction with the players. But at the end of the day, I think I made the right decision — we had a nice run.”

That means that Tondryk will now watch the big game instead of coaching in it, and seeing the impact he has made on players through the years.

The Cloquet Lumberjacks softball team rushes to greet senior Kayla Masessa after she belted a home run to beat Mound Westonka in the Class AA state softball semifinals in 2012. Cloquet Coach Ron Tondryk (right) reminds Masessa to touch the plate. (Pine Journal file)
The Cloquet Lumberjacks softball team rushes to greet senior Kayla Masessa after she belted a home run to beat Mound Westonka in the Class AA state softball semifinals in 2012. Cloquet Coach Ron Tondryk (right) reminds Masessa to touch the plate. (Pine Journal file)

“One of my players recently told me that she went into coaching and is teaching the game the way it was taught to her,” he said. “That really meant a lot to me. I hope I had some impact on some of these players, teaching them about life or about the game.”

And when the big inning arrives and Tondryk isn’t there?

“Once you become involved, it’s hard to watch,” he said. “But this team, in those big games, I’ll go and watch them. It’ll be hard but I think I’ll be peeking in over there. I’ll miss helping the kids hit in the batting cage, calling pitches during the game.”

“We have a great coaching staff and that’s how I knew it was time too,” he said. “It’s not a year too late that I’m leaving — the team will be good next year and it will have good coaches. So, it’s time.”

Brothers Ron Tondryk, left, and Dale Tondryk frame a poster commemorating Esko’s 1975 state football championship at the annual Esko Sports Alliance Hall of Fame induction luncheon at the Dry Dock. Ron Tondryk was a freshman on the 1975 team, while Dale was a senior co-captain. In addition to the 1975 team, other new inductees were Mel Koivisto, the late Mike Antilla, Julian Bertogliat and Nikki (Flynn) Gregg. Photo courtesy of Esko Sports Alliance
Brothers Ron Tondryk, left, and Dale Tondryk frame a poster commemorating Esko’s 1975 state football championship at the annual Esko Sports Alliance Hall of Fame induction luncheon at the Dry Dock. Ron Tondryk was a freshman on the 1975 team, while Dale was a senior co-captain. In addition to the 1975 team, other new inductees were Mel Koivisto, the late Mike Antilla, Julian Bertogliat and Nikki (Flynn) Gregg. Photo courtesy of Esko Sports Alliance