By EMILIE THIESSEN
Paynesville varsity baseball coach Brad Skoglund has had a lifelong passion for sports, an interest that came so naturally to him, he never anticipated it would land him an award.
“I was so surprised,” Skoglund said after being notified in mid-September that he had won the esteemed Dick Siebert Award for
excellence in high school baseball coaching. “I didn’t even know I was nominated.”
The award, given by the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association, is in honor of legendary University of Minnesota baseball coach, Dick Siebert, and is awarded once a year to a high school coach that serves baseball with distinction and longevity.
Skoglund was presented with the award on Oct. 29 during the Hall of Fame banquet at the Ramada Plaza hotel in Minneapolis.
Skoglund has been the head varsity baseball coach in Paynesville for more than 25 years and said he has loved every minute of it.
“I have great passion for sports, especially baseball. … I have been around the ball- park an awful lot,” he said.
Skoglund also coaches seventh-grade football and teaches physical education, health, strength training and career classes. In his experience, sports provide safe activities for kids who enjoy competition and camaraderie, while keeping them out of trouble.
Skoglund said the students in Paynesville are particularly hard working, which has made his experience as a coach and teacher even more fulfilling and enjoyable.
“Our kids work very hard,” he said. “We push them in practice. I think we make it fun for them, but we also make it competitive.”
Skoglund’s wife, Terry, who works at United Farm Credit in Willmar, and two daughters, Jackie, a freshman in college, and Lexi, a freshman in high school, have been very involved with his coaching career for many years. They have contributed more than anything to his success as a coach, he said, and without their backing, the demands of coaching would have been much more difficult to manage.
“As a head coach of a sport you need that support of your spouse. … My wife is there, behind the scenes doing a lot of little things that help the program … and if you have your whole family involved, it becomes a family affair,” he said.
Skoglund, who played college baseball for four years and played in the minor leagues with the Minnesota Twins for two years, said he remembers when his two young daughters would tag along with him to clean up the playing field before a game. Skoglund said he would do the cleaning and the girls would spend their time jumping in the puddles after a good rain.
Two summers ago, Skoglund said he fondly remembers when he was coaching a game as Terry did the announcing, Jackie ran the scoreboard and Lexi worked concessions. Being involved in activities like sports, Skoglund said, creates these experiences for families and facilitates a tight bond that may be difficult otherwise.
“Whether it is sports or the fine arts, you need to get involved with your school,” he said.
The support of the school administration and residents of the town has been instrumental in making Paynesville baseball what it is today, Skoglund said, not to mention the hard work of assistant coach Dick Realdsen.
“That is one nice thing about small communities — they really get behind their teams and support them,” he said. “People love baseball in this area, and I think that has been key to our success. When we won the state title in 2005, the fan support at our games was outstanding.”
Though he ranks 36th in the state for wins, Skoglund said he has never put too much emphasis on only numbers.
“I don’t focus on the wins and losses. It is about playing the game the right way, playing the game hard and doing the right things,” he said.
Skoglund said he follows that mentality off the playing field as well. Receiving the award was a great honor, but life isn’t just about winning; it is about enjoying each day.
“The number of victories in life really just shows I am getting old,” he said. “It is amazing how fast it goes. … Coaching is still so fun and I enjoy it. When it is not fun for me, I know it will be time to get out, but I still have the energy and great passion —and I love to compete.”