Windmill Classic continues to thrive in New Ulm

Local softball tournament celebrated 30 years this June

Staff photos by Jeremy Behnke The New Ulm Windmill Classic celebrathed its 30th year this year when New Ulm hosted the tournament June 15-16.

NEW ULM — A couple of weeks ago, the New Ulm Girls’ Fastpitch Association hosted the Windmill Class in New Ulm, a tournament drawing teams from all over the southern half of Minnesota at various age levels

The Windmill Classic celebrated its 30th year of existence this year and the tournament was once again a success because of a collaborative effort by the coaches, parents and members of the association.

Tim Loose has been the organization’s president for the last 12 years and he’s been on the board of directors for more than 20 years. His long history with the tournament has reached all levels and he remembers the early days of the organization. The organization has been going strong for about 32 years and Loose is proud to help carry on the tradition of the program.

“I started as a coach in 1991,” Loose said. “However, we certainly stand on the shoulders of giants who preceded us. The original organization was started in the mid 1980s led by Jerry Sandau and company, then followed by past presidents Brian Schuck and Jerry Balbach, and shaped by hundreds of board members and 1000s of volunteers over the last 35ish years.”

Just like in the beginning, the program is aimed at developing softball players for New Ulm’s three high schools — New Ulm High School, New Ulm Cathedral and Minnesota Valley Lutheran. The city of New Ulm has nine state high school state softball championships, two for New Ulm High School and seven for New Ulm Cathedral.

A successful summer program has helped build the high school programs and the program has given many athletes the chance to play the sport.

“However, one thing has stayed consistent — our primary goal is to provide a positive opportunity for every eligible girl in New Ulm area schools to play, and a chance to participate in fastpitch softball according to their ability no matter what skill level they possess,” Loose said.

Loose also said that the organization doesn’t favor any particular school program.

“We take great pride in being color-blind in our summer program, supporting all three schools — Cathedral [and St Anthony], Minnesota Valley Lutheran [and St Paul’s] and New Ulm Public Schools,” Loose said. “The school coaches and we in the summer program have good-natured ribbing about which program feeds which. I believe stickball [baseball and softball] is a very refined skill sport that relies heavily on having a bat, ball and glove in your hands as much as possible, like daily — even year around. To this end, we also support fall and winter dome teams from New Ulm by loaning our equipment to them. So of course, those players who participate throughout the year with these opportunities to play softball will have the best chance of success wherever they play.”

This year, there are 14 teams sponsored by the New Ulm Girls’ Fastpitch Association. They include two 6-under teams, two 8-under teams, three-10-under teams, two 12-under teams, two 14-under teams, one 16-under team and one 18-under team. The board members include Loose, Dean Barstad, Jill Berdan, Ryan Schmid, Maggie Conrad, Tanya Groebner, Toni Hames, Sarah Mathiowetz, Andy Pearson, Steve Lage, Shannon Hillesheim, Melissa Achman, Carla Berg, and Bryan Roiger.

The board members are busy year around. They help organize fundraisers and events throughout the year, not to mention all of the behind-the-scenes work that includes attending a monthly meeting, indoor training facility management, field maintenance and coordination, sign-ups/membership, megacard sales, a fish fry, getting equipment lined up, coach recruiting, training, hiring umpires, volunteer scheduling, getting uniforms for the upcoming season, preparation for the Windmill Classic, pitching clinics, concessions, tryouts, team draft, and social media/web site/digital communication.

The big event, of course, is the annual Windmill Classic. The 30th annual tournament was June 15-16 and the planning for it each summer begins at around the beginning of the year.

“We start planning about six months in advance of our June tourney,” Loose said. “Coaches usually start planning their summer tourney schedule about the first of the year and we accept registrations up to a week or so before the tourney. We have been able to develop a system to managing the Windmill Classic, so we are able to make last-minute adjustments for late registrants. I don’t think we have ever said no to anyone who wants to play. In addition, through the hard work of other board members, we have begun sponsoring some other tourneys, including state qualifiers, state tourneys, and an 8-under Southern Star jamboree.”

The New Ulm Girls’ Fastpitch Association is widely viewed as a program that has a lot of success across the state. Loose is hoping that tradition continues.

“I am extremely proud to be associated with this board and membership of New Ulm Girls’ Fastpitch,” he said. “We take great pride in our commitment to our community-based philosophy, especially supporting 3 schools — CHS, MVL, and NUHS. There are not many small communities having that dynamic.”

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