Elko celebrates milestones with Fredricksons at the center

By Nick Gerhardt

ScoreMonster Contributor

news@mnbaseball.org

If you stick around the ballpark long enough you’re bound to hit a few milestones like Elko’s Terry Fredrickson has in 42 years of leading the Express but he never concerned himself with reaching them.

There have been plenty of celebrations for Fredrickson as his win total increased in that time. First it was 700 wins, then 800, then 900 until this year when he won his 1,000th career game July 3 against Austin in Elko with a 17-4 victory at Fredrickson Field, a field the Fredrickson family put together.

“It’s been quite the build up to 1,000,” Fredrickson said. “We’ve been doing this for years now. Every 100 we’ve had a little celebration but it feels really good to get that 1,000th out of the way because it’s been a really big build up to that point.”

A sense of duty and love of baseball pulled through when Fredrickson took over managerial duties in 1976 as a 19-year-old. His father, Myron, stepped down from managing a couple of years before and the team stood on the verge of folding by the time Terry stepped forward, though it came at a time Terry preoccupied himself with life in the fast lane.

When Terry started managing he’d been away from the game, though as a Fredrickson he was never far from it. Fredrickson quit playing baseball after his sophomore year of high school and focused more of his attention to working at Elko Speedway. But when his younger brother Brad’s Town and Country team, which played many of the youth teams in Dakota-Rice-Scott towns, needed he coach Terry came on. It was quite the change of pace from speeding race cars to the pastoral timelessness of a ball field. He eventually found a job he couldn’t turn down and left Elko Speedway.

Terry, who’s now a mason, admits 1,000 career wins never crossed his mind, nor did any goal of reaching a victory milestone. When he started managing, the Express played 13 games and finished 5-8. Just winning a game was enough to think about at the time.

“Not in my wildest dreams,” Fredrickson said about winning 1,000 career games. “We learned how to lose a long time ago. Losing makes you learn how to win. You just want to be better every game.”

Fredrickson and the team learned enough by 1985 to reach the state tournament for the first time in the club’s history. The Express finished fourth that season and it became the first of 15 state tournament appearances. Elko captured its first and only state title in 2008 when it won the Class C championship. The Express subsequently moved up to Class B the following season and have remained there since. The MBA required state champions in Class C to move up to Class B at the time Elko won the Class C state title.

If the 1,000th career victory wasn’t enough the team held a 1,000th win night July 20 against rival New Market in an exhibition game. The Fredricksons don’t usually need a reason to head to the ballpark but the celebration served as additional incentive to have an impromptu family reunion. Naturally the Express won that one too, 7-1.

The Fredrickson family built baseball in Elko. Baseball and the Fredricksons date back to 1927 when the 12 Fredrickson brothers, who grew up on the family farm in Eidswold, just east of what’s now I-35, began traveling across the area playing games. The brothers and their baseball exploits have become part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Among those exploits is when the brothers beat the House of David, a barnstorming team, 4-2 in Jordan at the Scott County Fairgrounds in 1929 and took home $400.

Soon the next generation continued to imprint the family name onto baseball in Elko. Myron, the son of Soren, one of the 12 Fredrickson brothers, formed a group to begin the Elko Express baseball club in 1960. Myron and the group raised $2,000 to purchase the land in 1963 where Fredrickson Field sits now. It’d be another five years before a team took the field and became part of the Dakota-Rice-Scott League. In addition to celebrating a Fredrickson milestone of 1,000 wins, the club is also celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Terry Fredrickson is just the third manager in the club’s 50 years but it’s always sort of been a family affair at the ballpark.

If anyone wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day with Terry’s mother, Donna, they came to the ballpark. The same went for Father’s Day. While Myron managed, Donna ran the concession stand. Terry’s nephew, Corey Grisim, who has played with the team for 21 years, said only his parents have a cabin in the family and the cabin is just in Faribault. The vacation destination during summer for the Fredricksons has always been the ballpark.

“It’s been a family enterprise from the start,” said Brad Fredrickson, Terry’s brother and family historian. “That’s where we were for Mother Day and Father’s Day. A lot of aunts and uncles, we never had to plan to get together. You either wanted to come to the ballpark or you didn’t.”

Even as the reach of the suburbs seems to spread toward Elko and players from Lakeville makeup the roster, it’s still a small-town feel at Fredrickson Field, which pays homage to the family roots with 12 pine trees beyond the outfield fence to represent the 12 brothers.

If there’s a car at the park it’s almost a given there will soon be another after someone passes by the field. They’ll stop to check in and before long they’ll be helping with whatever’s going on.

“We’re here all the time,” Grisim said. “We helped put the sod in here three weeks ago. My cousin was watering it and before you know it there’s 15 of us here.”

Just as Myron managed the team and Donna worked the concession stand, Terry and his wife, Debbie do the same today.

Myron and Donna were a team when it came to the club. It was Donna who got Bingo started as a way to raise funds for the field. When the club built its grandstand in 2004 it dedicated it to her.

Field improvements

The changes at Fredrickson Field during Terry’s run as manager are visible because of their significance. As the club got into charitable gambling in 1990 it started eyeing field projects.

The field is a far cry from its days of being called a cow pasture by opponents, having just a snow fence for the outfield and having the infield dragged by a truck after games.

Three years after starting charitable gambling through pull-tab sales, Fredrickson Field added lights for around $90,000. The grandstand a decade later cost $125,000 and most recently the club installed new dugouts and concrete near the entrance. When the club learned that the cost of using the city’s water was going to be too much, the club dug its own well to get water to tend to the field.

As those improvements have taken place, so has field maintenance. The club employs people now during the summer to take care of the field but for many years it had been Terry and a band of volunteers. All of the work has paid off. Elko hosted Gopher Classic games this year and is on the short list as a possible third site for the 2022 state tournament that Faribault and Dundas will host.

Fredrickson Field stays busy throughout the summer with five teams calling it home, including the Express, who play a 40-game schedule each year.

“I pretty much fill the water jugs and we play the game,” Terry said while at the field during the Gopher Classic a couple of weeks ago. He still went out and prepped the field in between games.

The future

Terry hinted at stepping away following his 900th win back in 2015 but these days it’s hard to say how long he’ll remain in the dugout. He admits if someone really wanted to take over, he’d give way but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be at the park anyhow.

“He kind of seems reinvigorated,” Brad said. “It might be hard to get him out of there.”

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