NEW ULM - Even as he nears the age of 60, New Ulm's Bruce Jacobs doesn't want to give up on a dream of playing baseball.
Jacobs is an avid baseball enthusiast, who at the age of 59, continues to play on men's senior league teams in Minnesota and in Florida and Arizona during the fall season. This past summer he was a member of a state championship team [The Searles Bullheads, a team made up of players 35-and older] and a world championship team.
In late November, he and local teammates Dave Fauth, Bruce Gieseke, and Tom Steinbach went down to Florida to play in the Roy Hobbs World Series. Jacobs played with two different teams while down there, and he came back as a world champion.
Members of the 48-and-older World Champion HPK?Oilers pictured from left: Dave Fauth, Bruce Gieseke, Tom Steinbach, Bruce Jacobs
"It's gotta be the top," Jacobs said of the championship when compared to other baseball accomplishments. "The Bullheads state championships were great, but this is playing against guys from all over the country and all over the world."
Jacobs was a member of the HPK Oilers, a team of baseball players that are 48-years old and older. He played in a tournament at the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Meyers, Florida in November. The tournament is filled with many former collegiate stars and even some former professional players, so there's plenty of good competition all around.
Jacobs knows he's not getting any younger. But he still continues to work hard at the game and still tries to keep in the best shape possible.
"A lot of the guys, as they're getting older, I think they're actually going [down] and I think I've actually gotten smarter," he said. "I'm not faster, but I'm faster than they are now, so I can keep up with them now. They had opportunities and some experiences that I didn't. Maybe that's why I do it, because I have baseball dreams."
The Oilers played in the Roy Hobbs World Series against teams from all over the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. They went 8-0 in tournament play and defeated teams from Toronto, Puerto Rico and Detroit in the playoffs. The championship is an achievement that Jacobs is obviously quite proud of.
Jacobs has also played in senior men's tournaments in Phoenix and Las Vegas as well as Kansas City, Mo.
And he isn't the only one from the area that plays senior baseball down south. Searles Bullhead Myron Seidl joined the Oilers in Fort Myers this year (for the first time) in the 55s Legends division. And Sleepy Eye's Randy Armbruster was not able to attend in 2010 due to injuries, but he had been playing Roy Hobbs with the Oilers since 2006.
Other former or present Bullheads (besides the four 2010 "Masters" division world champs) who have played with the Oilers in various age divisions: Duane Helget, Dale Helget, Dean Brinkman, Brian Sieve, Kyle Messner, and Mike Marquardt. Steinbach, Brinkman, Messner, Marquardt, and Sieve were all a part of the 2005 World Champion Oilers in the 38-and-older Veterans division.
As a member of the Searles and formerly the Hanska Bullheads, Jacobs and his teammates won four state championships (2005, 2007, 2008, 2010). Throw in a few state tournament appearances in amateur baseball in three different states and a world championship in the Roy Hobbs World Series, and Jacobs has been a part of many successful teams.
"It's not me obviously, it's the people I'm around," Jacobs said. "It's pretty amazing, I've sure been enjoying it."
Jacobs got his start with amateur baseball when he began playing in Kansas in the 1970s and continued playing in Nebraska and Minnesota as he moved. He's played on good teams wherever he's been because he's played in state amateur baseball tournaments in Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota.
But as amateur baseball began to go away in Kansas, Jacobs began to play other sports like fastpitch and slowpitch softball. He did that for a number of years before moving to New Ulm.
Once he got here, he attended a New Ulm Kaiserhoff game, and his competitive juices began to flow again.
"I remember going to a Kaiserhoff-Springfield game and thinking 'boy, they can really bring it,'" he said. "They were throwing hard but I thought that I couldn't do it at the time. So I coached the kids and played a lot of softball here and that turned into seven teams by [the year] 2000. But I kept close to the game by coaching and playing softball."
Jacobs eventually got a tryout with the New Ulm Brewers and he made the team at the age of 49.
Although he didn't hit much for the Brewers, he had plenty of speed from his years of working on the farm and constantly running while he was working there. Because of that, he was primarily a pinch-runner.
"I never was a slugger," Jacobs joked. "I'm a puncher or a bunter. In fast-pitch [softball] one year I had 26 hits and 13 of them were bunts."
But playing baseball for the Brewers wasn't enough for Jacobs. Soon, he was curious about playing in some of the senior leagues, and at that point a teammate from the Brewers gave him a suggestion that he decided to act upon.
He heard about playing down in Florida, and that grabbed his interest.
"It goes back to when I was playing with the Brewers, in 2000 or 2001," Jacobs said. "Tommy [Steinbach] was playing the Kaiserhoff, and Jared Visker [former New Ulm High School baseball player] mentioned that Tommy goes down and plays in Florida. So I talked to Tommy and the timing was good, because a lot of the guys that he was playing with were getting a little old and wanted to move from the 38s [38-and-older] to the 48s, so we started a new team."
Jacobs has also played in senior men's tournaments in Phoenix and Las Vegas as well as Kansas City, Mo. For him, it's a time to use some vacation time with the family and also a time to get out and play the game he loves.
And playing baseball is not just a time to be competitive, but it's also all about renewing friendships on the diamond.
"It's an annual reunion of friendships developed with teammates as well as opponents and their families," Jacobs said. "I also love the team camaraderie and challenge of putting a competitive team together."
Jacobs has no idea when he's going to give up playing the game. For now, he's enjoying it and hopes to continue to do so as long as his body allows him.
"At my age, you take it a day at a time," he said.