SPRING VALLEY, WI - As you read this, the Spring Valley Hawks hope that your new year has started off on the right foot. Whether you started your morning off with a New Year's brunch or a bloody mary and a couple of 500 mg ibuprofen, we hope that you have now found yourself relaxing, looking forward to a prosperous and new year.
With a new year, many do a self evaluation and look forward towards the upcoming year and becoming a "new you", as some care to classify things as. It could be things like losing weight, changing their lifestyle, taking on new responsibilities in life, changing their attitude, whatever. Whatever you opt to do and change or become in your respective life, we certainly hope that it works out for the best.
Well for us, at least for the duration of this article, we are looking back. We are looking back on the memories, the memories that have been a part of Spring Valley Hawks baseball since the restart of town baseball in Spring Valley in 2011 (unfortunately, this won't include any Rudy stories). There have been many; much more than one could put into an article. Some big, others small. Some that lasted a mere seconds, some that lasted an entire weekend.
This has been something that I have wanted to put into words, on paper (electronic paper, duh), for a long time. It just never felt like the appropriate time to do it. However, a month or so ago, I got the feeling like the time was soon. Having just completed my seventh season of "running" the Hawks (I use that term loosely because it feels much different than having to "run" something.
There are a lot of people that make this possible; our players, fans, families, sponsors, our community, etc. I have never felt like this was something I have done alone, and I would not want it that way. While I do consider this a second job, one that you need a certain level of craziness to want to do, it is something that is a significant part of my life and I don't know what I would do without it. My wife probably has plenty of ideas, but she is also a big part of this and I am forever grateful and thankful for her sacrifice and support.
When I got the feeling like doing a Rumblings from the Diamond in this fashion, I made sure to ask our players for their input; their favorite moments and memories of Hawks baseball. Some of them have been with the Hawks longer than others, but they have all experienced enough to give input. There were plenty of things mentioned; some more appropriate than others, especially for this family friendly website (an 18+ version of this website is in the making). Some that were mentioned just wouldn't make much sense or mean much to the reader (hopefully there is at least one of you!), so I tried to articulate and put them into words as best as possible.
With that, for your New Years Day reading pleasure, here you go - some of the best moments (no particular order) in Spring Valley Hawks baseball history since 2011:
Annual Hayward trips - this has been a part of our yearly schedule since 2013. When we first started the Hawks up again, one of the things that was expressed was wanting a weekend trip away for the team. Not necessarily for anything baseball related, but for growing and becoming more of a team & family. Let's just say, that has happened. Those that have been part of these trips, it has become sort of a fraternity. First timers, sometimes only timers, have survived; barely. Beyond the baseball trip which includes playing a game Friday night up north, road tripping up to Hayward after, followed by a night game in Hayward on Saturday, this trip includes staying in a hotel, frequenting the establishments in Hayward, riding in a van called the Neon Pickle, wrecking each other on the go-kart track, playing wiffle ball in the hotel lawn, landscapping, darts, watching fellow Hawks watch adult videos for seemingly the first time & analyzing them like a football playbook, etc. Truthfully, a book could probably be written about these trips (no pictures though, for your benefit).
Qualifying for the WBA playoffs - probably the best moment of Hawks baseball, this would be number one on a ordered list. This was terrific season in a number of ways, which included winning our first round WBA playoff game against Tilden before running into eventual state championship Sparta (they're decent). Only 32 teams make the WBA playoffs, which is no easy task; especially when you consider the quality of league we play in. This team & season was a special one.
Thunder-storm in Hayward - one of the best parts of the Hayward trip has been the 2015 game against the Hayward Hawks. This trip usually consists of an "iron nine" type group, which made this 1-0 victory over Hayward even more special. The game was a 1-0 pitchers duel. We faced a guy named Tommy Danczyk from Hayward who is in the record books at St. Thomas, has pitched at the professional level with the St. Paul Saints and other teams, and is just straight filthy. However, on that night, he went up against a guy that had it all together in Josh Thundercloud (hence the subtitle, get it!?). We scored our lone run on a wild pitch, but that was all Thundercloud would need. He pitched a complete game shutout. Four baserunners allowed all game, seven strikeouts. He allowed one player to reach scoring position for Hayward. This was just an absolutely dominant performance by him, and is one that sticks with a lot of our players.
2017 victory over the Fighting Fish - this was a popular one amongst our players, and rightfully so. First off, let me start by saying this is meant as no disrespect or shot at the River Falls Fighting Fish. We respect them as much as any other team in our league, but given the back history between the Fish & Hawks (the Fish used to be the Hawks before moving to RF), and having never beaten the Fish until this night, it made sense to put it on the list. Solid pitching by Hunter Black & Taylor Prey, and timely hitting led by Michael Wesner in this game willed the Hawks, but not without plenty of drama.
The Dirty Shoe - if you don't know by now, we like to frequent Sneakers Pub & Eatery in Spring Valley following our home games. Somewhere along the way, we started referring to it as the "Dirty Shoe." Whatever works, I guess. Usually following the game, someone will yell out "Sneakers?" which is usually followed by a "f yeah." Plenty of memories have been made here, drinking a 1919 root beer or summer shandy, celebrating the night we qualified for the WBA playoffs, watching our players participate and destroy the two pound burger challenge (right, Bott?!), and more.
Casey at the bat - While our own Casey Ryan does not physically resemble the character known as Casey in the publication "Casey at the bat", he certainly played like him on this particular date. Playing the Stanley Slammers on this day, Ryan hit for the cycle; 5-for-5, 2 home runs, 5 runs batted in. It was a ridiculous performance, which included him needing a triple (probably the most difficult to get) in his last at bat. He got it - a drive to right field that bounced off the fence and rolled away from the outfielder. While coaching third base, I remember watching Casey round second base. I felt like throwing him a rope and helping him get to third base before the relay throw. Anything to help. However. he did not need it. He slid easily into third, popped up, clapped his hands, and proudly told me "I just hit for the cycle!" It was a great moment. Not to be forgotten, this was Brandon Walczak's debut as a Hawk (he impressed with 6 innings and 11 strikeouts) and the Hawks pounded out 14 runs on 17 hits which included four dingers (Ryan x 2, Brett Weinfurter, & Zac Balsiger).
St. Croix Falls Tournament - this was the first and only time that we participated in this event, and it could not have gone any better. We won our two games against Spooner & St. Croix Falls, both by a score of 8-1. Plenty of offense, and dominant pitching from Thundercloud and retired Hawk (future hall of famer??) Ryan Stangl made this a successful trip. Other than baseball, this trip also included watching rookie Conner Christensen get sauced on Miller High Life's (getting acquainted to town baseball) and Camden Hirshfeld answering his "Cold Water Challenge" on the way home in some random lake just outside of Clayton, WI; wearing just his jersey, spandex, and hat. Video of this available upon request.
Tammy the Turkey - You are probably wondering, what the heck? Well, this is the story. Prior to playing our game this past season on the Sunday of Memorial weekend, we were getting the field ready and noticed a group of younger kids hanging out by the outfield fence. Upon looking closer, we noticed that they were seemingly guiding a turkey along the fence line. Curious minds were wondering what was going on, so we ventured out to check things out. What we noticed was a distressed, injured turkey (much like how Aaron Esanbock ends his nights at the bar). Somewhere along the way, someone named her Tammy. Wanting to do the right thing, we had someone (my wife, of course) contact the DNR. They couldn't help, for whatever reason, but they told us to contact the local sheriff's department, which she did. They could help, eventually showed up and agreed that this turkey was on its last leg. To show our respects, we put on the National Anthem (because turkeys and patriotism go together, right?!), took off our hats, and bowed our heads as our left field became the final resting place for this turkey courtesy of a police issued shotgun. There are probably still pieces of Tammy still resting in left field, and we fully intend on giving her the proper burial that she deserves during our 2018 season. RIP Tammy.
Comeback - another memory that took place in 2017 against another team that the Hawks had little-to-no success against up until this point. It was an early season Wednesday night league game against the Hudson River Rats; another power in the St. Croix Valley Baseball League. While the game was played to a 1-1 tie for the first few innings, eventually Hudson took the lead and eventually led 5-1 going into the bottom of the 9th. If you are into baseball statistics, you are probably familiar with the idea of "win probability." Well, at this point, our win probability was probably at about .07%. However, as you know, things can change quickly in baseball. There is no game clock, no shot clock, no time limit. You get 27 outs, just like your opponent, and on this night, we needed all of them. Somehow, in what seemed like a flash, we erased a 4 run deficit in the bottom of the 9th and won via walk off fashion courtesy of a Joey Helmer 2-run single. Never quit I guess, right?
Stay tuned for continued updates on the Spring Valley Hawks 2018 season via our website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.