Long Streak Ends for Long Sox’ Jenniges

–by Louie Opatz, MBA freelance writer 

If you’re looking for Isaac Jenniges between the months of March and October, odds are you’ll find him on the baseball field.

Jenniges is an original member of the Lamberton Long Sox, and the 32-year-old second baseman has missed just seven games since the Long Sox’ inaugural season in 2002.

Until June 1, Jenniges boasted a streak of 314 games started – a streak that was snapped not from lack of trying.

Jenniges had his baseball bag packed and drove separately to that day’s Section 3AA high school playoff baseball game between Redwood Valley and Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove, where Isaac is an assistant coach.

After the game ended with his Falcons winning 7-6, Jenniges rushed to reach Leavenworth, where Lamberton was in the midst of a Tomahawk East League game against the Orioles.

“By the time we got finished, I called one of the fans that was there and they were in the bottom of the seventh inning,” Jenniges said. “I drove that direction until they got into the ninth inning and decided that I’d be done. I tried my darndest, but I just couldn’t make it work.” 

Jenniges’ 3,619-day streak ultimately died because of his dedication and devotion to the Red Rock Central/Westrbrook-Walnut Grove high school baseball team; in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a bad way for the streak that had begun on July 5, 2006 to end.

“It’s not like I wasn’t at a baseball game that night – I was just wearing a different uniform,” Jenniges said. “It was going to come to an end some time.”

First at the field

For Jenniges’ Lamberton teammates, the 314-game streak isn’t particularly surprising: it’s just how Isaac operates.

“He’s just so dedicated to the Long Sox,” said Landon Erickson, Lamberton’s first baseman. “The standing joke is to try and beat Isaac to the park, because it doesn’t happen. You think you got there early, but Isaac’s just finishing up mowing the field.”

“The guys just know he’s going to be there,” said Derrick Jenniges, Isaac’s brother and the Long Sox’ manager. “He’s been a mainstay.”

Brothers Derrick, Isaac and Jacob Jenniges are three of the four original Long Sox – along with Lamberton slugger Colby Pack – and all are still on the roster 15 years later.

The roster continuity and commitment of the Long Sox’ veterans has contributed to Lamberton’s success: in the team’s 15-year history, the Long Sox have won 12 Tomahawk East titles and played in seven Class C state tournaments.

“We have such a good, tight-knit group of older guys and a really good mix of younger guys,” Erickson said. “We’re maybe hard on them, but it’s expected you do things the right way. Isaac leads by example – he’s there every day, he’s the one hustling in and hustling out, always talking.”

“I think being here from the beginning, being one of the original guys … it’s important to show the new guys, the younger guys, that this is who we were when we started,” Isaac Jenniges said.

“It’s really important for the younger kids: they understand there’s a process and there’s a standard,” Derrick Jenniges said. “They take a year or two to buy into it, and you’ve really got to sell it to them, but once they do they realize it’s not just about coming and playing the game. It’s about family and being with your buddies.”

One big family

When the Long Sox began in 2002, the majority of the team was composed of single guys fresh out of college.

Now, 15 years later, the Long Sox have married and had children – creating an extended baseball family that congregates at Lamberton games multiple times a week.

For Isaac Jenniges’ wife Tesa, the tight-knit Long Sox community has kept her coming back, game after game, since Isaac and she started dating in 2008.

“I’ve probably went to every game that Isaac went to,” Tesa Jenniges said. “I usually just tagged along with Isaac because it was something to do and he loves the game.”

In the eight years since she started attending Long Sox games, Tesa Jenniges has become a part of the extended Long Sox clan that spends much of its summer together.

“You become a family,” she said. “And I would say, even the Long Sox players that have retired, they still bring their wives and kids to the game. It’s not like they just stop playing and that’s the end of it: they continue to come and support the team, and go to the games and go to the state tournaments to cheer their fellow Long Sox players on.”

Like many amateur baseball wives around the state, Tesa Jenniges has sacrificed plenty of summer vacations to attend baseball games – though she was certainly ready for that when Isaac and she wed in 2010.

“That’s what Isaac tells me, ‘You know how much I love baseball, you knew when we were dating what you were getting yourself into before you married me,’” Tesa said. 

“I did know what I was getting into,” she added, with a laugh.

As someone who’s played next to Isaac for eight years, Erickson has seen Jenniges’ dedication firsthand.

“The day after his wedding day he was playing second base. His daughter wasn’t born during the baseball season, but it might have been a tough decision,” Erickson said, laughing.

Tesa and Isaac’s daughter, Harper, was born in November, and Tesa knows that the Jenniges trio will have more summer free-time once Isaac hangs up his cleats and glove for good.

“I know that Isaac is not going to be playing forever,” Tesa said. “I know there will be family vacations in the future.”

Eventually, Isaac Jenniges will retire. But until that day, don’t expect him to take a day off.

“I was really shooting for 10 years (for the streak),” Jenniges said. “Had I got to 10 years, I thought maybe I’d just take a day off. Now that it came and it was just forced on me, I have no reason to take a game off until I’m done, as far as I’m concerned.” 

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