A look back at the Bullheads’ dominance
Story and information courtesy of Myron Fluegge
In 2005, the Hanska Bullheads organized a team of 35 and over local baseball players, under the guidance of Todd Olson, Bruce Jacobs, and Dan Erdman, with Landis Froehling making the Hanska field arrangements.
The team became part of the Minnesota Senior Men’s Amateur Baseball Association (MSMABA), consisting of 28-36 Minnesota teams since the Bullheads joined. That team developed into a dynasty over the first six years. Several players from Hutchinson also joined the Bullheads in the next couple of years.
The Bullheads consisted of outstanding players from one end of the bench to the other, including Terry Steinbach and his brothers Tom and Tim. Terry, a New Ulm native, played 11 years with the major league Oakland A’s and three years with the Minnesota Twins. Although he played catcher and first base as a pro player, his years with the Bullheads put him on the mound as a premier pitcher.
During those first six years, the Bullheads won four Class AA state championships and were runner-up the other two seasons. It should be noted that for the MSMABA tournaments, all 35-and-over teams participate. The top 16 teams are seeded for Classes AA and A.
The winners of the first game go on to bracket play as the top eight teams in Class AA, while the losers of that first game make up Class A. Meanwhile the remaining teams are seeded for the Class B and C bracketing. Most teams play a regular season schedule of 12-16 games, plus four tournament games.
In 2005, the Hanska Bullheads defeated the Waconia Islanders 5-4 to win their first state championship in their inaugural season. The Bullheads had championship wins in 2007 by defeating the Freeport Gray Sox 5-1 and also in 2008 with a victory over the St. Peter Saints 8-2.
The Bullheads were runner-up in Class AA in 2006, losing to the Anoka Tornadoes 4-0, and also lost out in the 2009 championship game to the St. Peter Saints 3-0. In each of those first five years the Bullheads were one of the top three seeded teams.
The year 2010 stands out as a very special one for what now are the Searles Bullheads. After five years of playing in Hanska, Searles, with its newly installed lights and grass infield, became the home field for the Bullheads. What made that season so special was that the “aging” Bullheads were given the number seven seed with a 10-5 regular season record, but still went on to win their fourth Class AA championship.
It was a pitcher’s duel between two New Ulmites, Terry Steinbach for the Bullheads and Slayton’s Mike Wenninger. Going into the bottom of the seventh with a scoreless tie, the Bullhead’s Dave Fauth led off the inning with a slicing line drive just out of reach of the Slayton’s diving right fielder, with Fauth ending up on third base, with the Bullheads third hit of the game.
The Barnstormers chose to issue intentional walks to both Tom and Terry Steinbach to load the bases for Doug Ekstrom. Ekstrom worked the count full, fouling off some good pitches, and then drove a base hit to left center to win the game for the Searles Bullheads 1-0 over the Slayton Barnstomers. The scenario of events are reminiscent of game seven of the Minnesota Twins 1991 World Series victory.
The Bullheads had four hits in the game while Steinbach scattered nine hits, all singles, walked one and struck out four. The Bullheads played stellar defense throughout the contest.
Another indication of the Bullheads dominance is to look at their overall season and tournament records. 2005: 19-1, 2006: 18-3, 2007: 17-3, 2008:18-2, 2009: 16-3, and 2010: 14-5 for a six-year record of 102 wins and only 17 loses. Like in all baseball, good pitching is a key. In addition to Terry Steinbach, Dean Brinkman, Kyle Messner, Dave Fauth, Tom Steinbach, Jon Beckius and others had solid pitching performances over the years.
Searles continues to serve as the home field for the present Bullheads team. In 2019 the Bullheads won the MSMABA Class B title with a 3-1 championship victory over the Urbank Goldtimers in St. Peter.
Jeremy Drexler has been the Bullheads manager the past three season. Jeremy’s dad, Al, has been the main force behind the upkeep, and maintenance of the Searles ballpark, used by both the Bullheads and Grizzles men’s amateur teams.
In 2004 new dugouts were built at the Searles ballpark. Then in 2017 a new scoreboard was installed and a new batter’s eye (wall) was erected in 2018.
The Bullheads had advanced to the Class AA championship game two other times since the 2010 championship season. In 2013 the Bullheads lost to St. Peter and in 2014 the Prior Lake Mariners defeated the Bullheads. Although Scott Rummel did not pitch during the dynasty years, he racked up a perfect won-loss record of 20-0 from 2012-2015, and was a big factor in the Bullheads Class AA runner-up appearances in 2013 and 2014.
In 2014 the Bullheads Myron Fluegge was given the MSMABA oldest player award. Fluegge had served as the Bullheads scorekeeper, publicity director, and substitute player from 2013-2016. Bruce Jacobs held those positions previously.
Only time will tell where or when the next athletic dynasty will take place.