The team had the right mix, players said. The 1989 Morris Eagles amateur baseball team won the Class C state title. It is the only Eagles state title to date.
What made the team so successful was the mix of players who contributed throughout the season and the addition of some key players during the championship run, said then manager/player Lyle Rambow.
“We had a bunch of veteran players sprinkled in with young players so the team chemistry was a huge highlight, we just really loved playing together,” Rambow said of the 1989 championship team.
Players included third baseman Dan Sayles, Steve Selk, who was the state tournament MVP, shortstop Mark Torgerson and Randy Ver Steeg and Chad Rohloff, who were state draftees from the Hancock Orphans.
Veteran players were, “Jeff Arnold, Dan Johnson, Lyle Rambow, Dan Sayles, Tim Tanner and myself,” Torgerson said. "The other players were ones who Lyle and I had coached and they were some really talented guys. Kent Moser, Paul Wente and Steve Selk were just three of the guys who all went on to play college baseball. Steve was our star pitcher and he ended up in the NDSU (North Dakota State University) Hall of Fame. There were other locals, too, and Bart Hill was also on the team, although he got hurt.”
Other members of the championship team were: Ted Chizek, Mark Hendrickson, Steven Devitt, Curt Hennen, Daniel Johnson, Keven Ross, and Jeff Anderson.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the state title, the 1989 Eagles team will be recognized during the Class C state tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24, in Delano. Rambow is organizing a players’ and fans’ reunion at 4 p.m. that day.
The 1989 Eagles had a successful team, but when the championship run started, they looked next door for some additional help.
The Eagles drafted two opposing players in Ver Steeg and Rohloff. According to the Minnesota Baseball Association handbook, each Class “C” team is permitted to draft three eligible pitchers.
Ver Steeg and Rohloff were drafted for the state tournament from the Hancock Orphans.
“I was given the opportunity to be the starting pitcher in the state championship game so that their MVP Steve Selk could finish the game on the mound. It was fun watching this team come together and play so well at state,” Ver Steeg said. “It was fun getting to know them and to be a small part of their championship run.”
The new state title team players were aware of the Eagles’ skills because of regular season games.
“As for playing against these guys during the (regular season), tough as nails,” Rohloff said.
It was an easy transition to becoming teammates. “...when Randy Ver Steeg and myself were drafted for playoffs, these guys became awesome teammates who welcomed us with open arms,” Rohloff said.
The state title was the exclamation point on several amateur careers.
Rambow, Torgerson and Sayles were among those who retired after the 1989 season.
“There were a few of us in our mid-30s that wanted one more shot after taking third at state in 1988. With juggling a family and playing town ball, they have to become baseball fans whether they like it or not,” Rambow said. “When we won it all, we thought it was a good way to go out. Winning the state tournament made the decision (to retire) a lot easier.”
“After we won it, I just knew we had a lot of good young players coming up so it seemed like a good time to take a break,” Torgerson said. “I had played for 17 seasons and there was a lot of time commitment. Winning the title was a dream come true, so it wasn't as hard to step away.”
After 30 years, there are still things Sayles misses about his playing days.
“I can tell you to this day that I don't miss playing the game as much as I miss hanging around my teammates,” he said. “Baseball has given me lifelong friendships at every level I played at and was fortunate enough to enjoy the game I love with all my children and my wife, who put up with a lot of late evenings and long weekends.”
While the 1989 title is the team’s only championship, the Eagles have been to state eight times since 1989, including placing third in 1999. The Eagles advanced to their ninth state tournament this past weekend. Morris hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2015.
“I still think the Eagles will continue to always have a good team and still believe it is possible to see another state championship in the future,” Torgerson said.
“Their team this year is kind of similar to our (1989) team with a core of young guys like Jacob Torgerson and that group and the savvy vets like Eric Asche and Kirby Marquart that have been around awhile,” Rambow said of this year's Eagles team.
The 2019 Eagles won the Region 9C championship game against Dumont Sunday, Aug. 11 and open the 2019 Class C State Tournament will open the weekend of Friday, Aug. 17.