Five players, one family to be inducted into Eastman Fast Pitch Hall of Fame

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Steve Henry

Jerry Finney

Randy Mara

Carl Wall

John Kramer

The Carl and Marlene Achenbach family is being inducted as Friends of the Game.

 

Five players and a Friends of the Game family will be inducted into the Eastman Fast Pitch Hall of Fame on July 4 at 4 p.m. at the Eastman Ballpark.

 

Friends of the Game

Achenbach Family

The Carl (Gene) and Marlene Achenbach family involvement with the Eastman Ballfield goes back 60 years.  

In the early 1960s, softball, especially men’s fast pitch, was one of the most popular pastimes in Crawford County. Players and their families would spend many social hours at local ball parks as the men of the fast pitch leagues would compete for local bragging rights.

Most of the parks were located in villages such as Eastman, Wauzeka, Seneca and Steuben. One or more parks were built on private land such as the Bush Ballpark, near Wauzeka. During that time period, most games were played only on weekends, or possibly late afternoons/early evenings during daylight.

Carl Achenbach, and others in Eastman, thought that if Eastman could “light” the playing field, it would be used much more often, and be available to many more community events. A search was started and used field lighting was found. Recycled power poles were acquired, and then erected by community members using their farm equipment and muscles because funds were scarce. When the planned electrician was delayed, Carl climbed the poles and installed the lights—causing Marlene and others some unease because of the height and danger. The lights went on and the ballfield was transformed into an area destination.

The power for the lights had to be paid for, as well as maintenance costs. Marlene and Carl envisioned a “pop” stand as a steady source of funds, but the park was on school property so no permanent structure could be erected. The Achenbachs, with others from the community, constructed a portable stand, about 10’ X 16’ on skids so that it could be moved close to the field during the playing season, and removed to an area close to the outhouses during the school year.

Marlene’s and Carl’s family shared the responsibility of the operation of the pop stand with the Frank and Gladys Harvat family for many years.  Most of the family “volunteered” to work in the stand.  At first, no electricity was installed in the pop stand so large blocks of ice were used to cool the refreshments. Many community children earned a “pop” for either returning a foul ball, or cash for a case of empty soda bottles.

Carl served as an informal field manager for several years, organizing leagues, tournaments, and maintenance. Marlene assisted with the schedules and financial records–assisting both the ball park and 4-H when sharing revenue. Many area teams became fierce competitors for softball bragging rights, most were sponsored by local establishments such as Slama’s Bar, Eastman Locker, Zabel Equipment, Eastman Lumber, FS, Johnsons One Stop, Bob’s Bar, etc.

Many will remember Carl’s work as an umpire. Most never challenged his calls behind the plate. Family members have volunteered to keep the field in use over the years by coaching 4-H softball, youth baseball teams, serving as youth baseball coordinators, and organized volleyball. Achenbach Hy-View Farms sponsored a fast pitch team for 21 years. Lonnie’s family, with Victor’s assistance, still lead the youth games at the July 4 celebration. 

It is not a big effort for the family to support the Eastman community ball field. It is just something that the Achenbach family loves to do!

Notes of interest:

The electronic scoreboard was donated by the Carl and Marlene Achenbach Family.

Victor remarked that the earlier July 4 celebrations had a greased pig catch. He also umpired youth baseball games and still assists with the youth games.

Dean remembers dragging the field after rain with a little Allis D-14 from the farm to help it dry out. Dean coached Little League for Prairie du Chien so Eastman would have someone to beat on the 4th of July!? LOL. His son, Aaron, operated the refreshment stand for a time in the 1980s.  

Gary remarked that left field, before the outfield fence was built, wasn’t level so that a well hit ball could roll down the hill and into the weeds.

Steve coached Little League and 4-H teams. The 1985 team took second in the Class B tourney.

Dale for many years was a Little League coach.

Lonnie coached youth baseball and is still serving as league commissioner.

Bonnie coached Little League and played 4-H softball, which led into playing fast pitch and slow pitch softball. The fourth generation is now playing Little League in Eastman and umpiring ball games.

Donna commented that the Eastman Ballpark is a safe-haven for all. She remembers running around the bases as a little kid after games, and is glad that the tradition continues.

 

Steve Henry

I started playing fast pitch when I was 16 for the Oak Grove Two. At that time, we played in many local tournaments. 

After three years, I then played for Oak Grove One and we traveled to play in many tournaments. In 1982, we won the Class A State Title.

In 1985, I then went to Wilkinson Auction and played there for seven years.

Fast pitch is one of the greatest games and I had the honor to play with and against many great players.

Thank you for the friendship and the memories made.

 

Jerry Finney

I would like to thank the Eastman Fast Pitch Hall of Fame for this recognition. I played softball for over 25 years, mainly for Christianson’s Mill and Dr. Thompson’s, but also any local team that I was available for.

Trudy and I raised five great kids who never had to question what we were doing from May to September, just what ballpark it would be at!

We made lifelong friends and memories. It was the best time for all of us.

Thank you all.

Note – The most innings I pitched in one game was against Bob’s Place of Eastman at Bush Park. Bud Kramer also pitched the entire game.

 

Randy Mara

I would like to thank all who voted me into the Eastman Fast Pitch Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor to stand by all these great ball players whom I idolized.

Eastman was and is a great place to grow up. I started like every other kid, sitting in the stands in case one of the teams didn’t have enough to fill a team. Then, I got to play.

I started with Eastman Lumber. Mel Trautsch managed the team. Dan Trautsch pitched. Other teams I played for included Bob’s Place, Christianson’s Mill, and Slama’s Bar. I then played a long time with Oak Grove. We won the State Class A Tournament in 1982.

I was fortunate enough to play with my two brothers, Pete and Gary, and two sons, Robbie and Dusty. Both brothers are in the Hall of Fame. I will always remember the great players I played with and against.

Again, I would like to thank everyone for this great honor.

 

Carl Wall

I am honored to be inducted into the Eastman Fast Pitch Hall of Fame.

I started playing softball in my teenage years with Gillitzer Milker Service. We played league in Eastman and Bush Park.

I played for F.S., Double R, Met Life, Bassett Trucking, MG Contruction, and Crawford Chiropractic.

I played in numerous state tournament games.

I enjoyed ball so much that I coached Little League, and then coached girls’ softball in Seneca for nine years.

I enjoyed playing softball and made many great friends and wonderful memories.

 

John Kramer

It’s been nearly 50 years since I last played fast pitch softball at Eastman. As I recall, I never hit under .500, and led the league each year in homers and RBIs. But then, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be, so I may have some facts mixed up.

Seriously, playing ball at Eastman and other surrounding ball parks was a happy chapter in my life. I first played for the Eastman Mets, an extremely talented group of young athletes. We won several tournaments and league championships in the four years we played together.

After that, I played with Slama’s Bar and Bob’s Bar. Both were tough teams with great players and good friends.

Then, life changed from softball to a full-time real estate and auction business with my wife Cheryl. We have been blessed with three children and 10 grandchildren.

Thank you for this honor.

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