Scott Mansch: Woodstock baseball field dedicated to Edward O'Hearn

Scott Mansch: Woodstock baseball field dedicated to Edward O’Hearn

Because it was not one.

“No trees either,” he says. “It was nothing but cornfields. So if you could hit one in the cornfield, you should keep running. Because the right fielder can find that baseball and you could be thrown out.

Back in the day, Woodstock had a rich history of producing excellent baseball teams in the Gopher League. A summer afternoon game can attract 200 or more fans, doubling the village’s population.

Unfortunately, the ball diamond in the middle of Woodstock has not been the site of many matches in the last 40 years. But the field never went to seed.

Because of people like Edward O’Hearn.

Although few have used the field, Edward has cut and cared for it for years. And now the bourgeois Woodstock Community Club is showing its gratitude.

On Sunday afternoon at 1:30, the Community Club will unveil a new scoreboard and formally dedicate the diamond to Edward O’Hearn. Forever, the place will be known as O’Hearn Field.

“It’s amazing,” Edward says softly.

And, adds Community Club leader Allison Kruisselbrink, it’s the right thing to do.

“The O’Hearn family deserves this,” she says. “If you were an O’Hearn, you played ball in some form on that field. I just think they deserve it. ”

Edward’s wife, Kathy (Janssen), was once a fine softball player. Their daughters, Tammy and Staci O’Hearn, were also great ball players who spent many hours on the Woodstock diamond.

Edward’s family, including big sister Twila and younger brother Craig, also excelled at the Woodstock diamond. Maybe that’s part of the reason Edward is so concerned about preserving it.

“Ed played here for a long time, and he’s taken care of the field forever,” Allison said. “He does everything he can to keep going, whether there is someone playing there or not.”

Allison’s husband, Austin, is a Woodstock native who now serves as the city’s mayor. Austin’s family knows the ballpark just too well.

“He played on it for years,” Allison says. “And so did his mother, father, and grandfather.”

Sunday’s festivities include a meal at 12:30 p.m., followed by a dedication ceremony that includes recognition for Woodstock ball-happy families named Powers, Legler, Biever and Van Nieuwenhuyzen.

“Most of them had grandparents and other relatives who played ball here,” Allison says. “The youngest we present is Chad Powers, who started a slow men’s team a few years ago. Before that, the field was just empty, and that was a sad thing. ”

Sunday’s ceremony is cause for celebration. The small diamond a block north and east of the main street in Woodstock now has an outfield fence that stands behind many trees. There are also lights that are up to date.

And the new scoreboard in midfield is beautiful. Local people and businesses raised around $ 30,000 for the improvements.

“People in town got behind it,” Edward says. “It’s really amazing. It’s real.”

Allison says, “It started as a little dream, and it grew fast.”

Now 75, Edward says it seems like yesterday when the bold Woodstock diamond blossomed.

“We had no fence and the infield was dirty,” he says. “And we had woolen uniforms. By the third round, you were soaked when it was hot outside. ”

Although the field is dedicated to Edward, he would not have his first name on the scoreboard. This is because he prefers to include the family.

Roman Powers managed the Woodstock team when Edward started playing at the ball club as a 16-year-old. He played for his home team for probably 15 years, when it folded.

By then, Edward had led the team and his brother, Craig, was the star player.

Craig, a 1974 graduate of Pipestone High who played baseball for years in southwest Minnesota and was a prominent player in South Dakota State, was considered one of the best ball talents in the region. He could hit, hit for power, run and play shortstop.

Craig was also a dynamite pitcher.

“I could stay,” Edward says. “But there was quite a big difference between my brother and me.”

Then he smiles.

“Craig, he helped us quite a bit.”

Craig says it’s the other way around.

“It warms my heart that they’re doing this for Ed,” Craig said. “He’s been a big brother to me.”

The boys’ father, Edwin O’Hearn, also loved ball.

“But he never played a day in his life,” says Edward. “He was the referee. He loved the game very much. And he wanted me to play ball.”

When Edward was young, 6 or 7, he was right-handed in everything.

“But for some reason I started hitting back and forth,” he says, showing an unorthodox grip with his left hand over his right. “He could not get it out of me, so he said ‘You might as well strike back.’ You will be a better hitter anyway. ‘”

Edward laughs.

“That’s all I do left-handed.”

The O’Hearn Patriarch was a farmer. But he did not make the boys work as it was a game to be played.

“Ball came first with Dad,” Edward says.

Edwin and his wife, Etta, did not miss many matches.

“The joke was that if there was no equipment running on his father’s farm, Craig must have played in Brookings that day,” laughs Edward. “Dad wanted to close the yard to see Craig play.”

Many years ago, there were two ball diamonds in Woodstock, north of town on a Kruisselbrink farm. For Little League, fastpitch softball and city ball. When the O’Hearn boys played, the courtyards were gone and a diamond had been shaped over an old garbage dump in the middle of town.

Woodstock did not have a tribune, but the team had a home advantage. The Heckling resistance was something Woodstock fans were proud of.

“We had fans,” Edward chuckles. “And they were definitely into it.”

Nothing unusual about it in Minnesota city ball country.

“Well,” says Edward. – Each team had its own referee. And he was the No. 10 man on the team. ”

Edward laughs long and hard.

“It was like that everywhere,” he says. “I remember the first time I played in Hadley, I got a hit from a guy named Jack Johnson. And the next time I come up,” our manager, Romie Powers, “be a little careful. He can throw at you. And that is his brother, Alan, who is judging, so he can call it a strike. ‘”

Despite being a power hitter, Edward was a fairly fair bench jockey. The little brother was usually the best player on the field – and the best taste.

Of course, playing for the hometown creates pride and increases a us-against-them mentality.

“You talk about playing for your hometown, and one of the most important things that taught me was to be competitive,” Craig says, “It taught me to put everything at stake when you’re out there.”

Craig laughs.

“We always had laughter even during games,” he says. “My brother always had a sense of humor and wanted some comments during every game.

“It was always so great. No matter what small town we played, it was like that, all the fans went on as if they were going to kill each other during the match. And then after the match everyone is at the bar having a beer and laughing. ”

Sunday’s engagement will provide a lasting memory.

“The field, it will be a legacy,” says Edward. “It will be here forever.”

Allison says the hope is that softball will continue on the field, and that some T-Ball for the Woodstock area will take place next summer.

Edward and Craig have an older sister, Twila. She and Craig, who both live in the Owatonna area these days, plan to return home for Sunday’s ceremony.

Edward has many memories of the Woodstock ball field. Sunday’s dedication will provide another.

“It will definitely do that,” he says cautiously. Then he breaks.

“I have to be a little careful not to tear up,” he says. “It’s really going to be something.”

Scott Mansch is a part-time writer for The Globe. He appreciates tips and story ideas and can be reached at

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