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Holmberg inducted into Fastpitch Hall of Fame

    Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta’s Mary Holmberg was one of two coaches inducted into the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame this year.

    Holmberg received the honor at the All Star Recognition Banquet June 9 in Mankato.

    Holmberg has been coaching softball in Morris since developing the program in 1980.

    She’s been coaching ever since.

    Along the way Holmberg has received other awards for her dedication to the sport.

    In 1996 and again this year, Holmberg was awarded the Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day Breaking Barriers Award. She was named the Section 6 A Coach of the Year three times. She has been selected to coach in the All-Star series four times.

    For 17 years, Holmberg was  Morris Area’s athletic director. During that time she was named Athletic Director of the Year.

    Over her 33 years of coaching softball, Holmberg has recorded 495 wins. She led the Tigers to seven State Tournament appearances and numerous sub-section championships.

    Holmberg got her start playing with a rubber ball in the yard. She believes that throwing that ball against the barn made her a good fielder.

    Holmberg’s first experience playing organized softball was on the slowpitch summer league out of Benson. Then, at Moorhead State, she tried out for the fastpitch team and played for the Dragons.

        Holmberg got her first teaching job in Morris starting in the fall of 1977. By 1980, Morris was a couple years behind the neighboring schools, which already had softball programs.

    “I had a bunch of kids that wanted to play,” Holmberg said.

    So she approached principal Wally Behm and superintendent Fred Switzer.  They were willing to give it a try.

    That first season, the Tigers played  Glenwood, Villard, Hancock, Wheaton, Beardsley, Graceville, Willmar, and Cyrus.

    During those first couple seasons, Holmberg had college students helping her. Then in 1982, George Graff became her assistant. Mary Asche is only the second assistant in over 30 years.

    “Our program has really developed because of the consistency,” Holmberg explained.

    Sharon Martin, a former player, has also been the junior high coach for several season.

    Holmberg loves to see her former players coaching the game. Several of them are currently coaching in other school districts.

    “Hopefully, you instill a love of the game so they still play as adults,” Holmberg stated.

    Many of her players are now in the bleachers watching their own daughters play.

    “It’s fun to see former players work with their own kids,” Holmberg said. “I get a lot of enjoyment seeing that.”

    Holmberg feels she’s been blessed with a lot of great athletes.

    “Every kid has brought competitiveness, whether they won or not,” she added.

    One of the changes she has seen over the years, is the number of activities available for high school girls.

    “There’s always a demand on kids for time,” explained Holmberg. “You want them to be balanced.”

    She has always stressed the importance of academics to her players.

    “Helping the girls to be successful in school, sports, and life, that fills yours heart.”

    Holmberg appreciates all the help she has received over the years  from administrators, principals, and athletic directors.

    “You don’t get to the Hall of Fame by yourself.

    “I have been very fortunate to have supportive parents,” she added. “One day, Mike Martin (athletic director) wheeled in a pitching machine donated by Mike and Cindi Busian.

    “Also, the Sports Boosters have been generous in their support,” added Holmberg. “The city of Morris has always been easy to work with in keeping up the ball field.

    “Another important component for us is the support we receive from Mary Belmore, our athletic trainer.

    “Working with Cindy Perkins and Community Education to start the elementary, junior high, and senior high summer programs has helped with the success of our program.”

    Holmberg coaches the junior high team during the summer.

    “I enjoy the opportunity to work with younger kids to develop their skills,” she said. “When I was their age, I didn’t have the opportunity.

    “I want the girls to understand that women’s sports haven’t been around that long,” added Holmberg. “It’s a privilege to play. I want them to enjoy it and have fun.”

    She also hopes they share the game with others.

    “Hopefully, the kids that have gone through the program will give back to others and help younger kids improve.”

    After 33 years, Holmberg says she still gets nervous.

    “I still get butterflies before every game,” she said.     “But I’ve enjoyed every game that I’ve coached.”

    Despite the nerves, she still looks forward to every season.

    “On that first day you can go outside, you feel young again,” she explained. “It’s something to look forward to.

    “I’ll keep coaching as long as they want me to coach.”