Noreen Giesen: Union Hill’s Mrs. Everything

Posted on June 10, 2015

Story courtesy of Mike Sticha, DRS President

Noreen “Reno” Giesen (maiden VonBank), and her husband Bill “Buda” Giesen arrived at Union Hill’s Don Giesen Field on Sunday around 1 pm, about an hour before first pitch against the Shakopee Coyotes. They both had their arms full as they made their way onto the field and into the dugout. Reno was carrying her blanket and towels, scorebook, and other miscellaneous items, while Buda had some jugs of water. As Reno got herself situated on the dugout bench (in her “spot”), Buda went back for another arm load of goods to complete the day’s transfer of inventory from vehicle to dugout. Buda dropped the last set of items at Reno’s feet and headed out of the dugout to take his spot near the concession stand, while Reno remained in the dugout, carefully situating all of her items in their rightful places. The dugout is where Reno has watched countless Union Hill Bulldog games, specifically right in the center with her myriad of supplies surrounding her, and there is no place she’d rather be. Since the 1976 season, Reno Giesen has been the Bulldogs’ Official Scorekeeper, and in that time, she has also become the team’s “Mrs. Everything.” 

Scorekeeping

Growing up on a farm near Jordan, MN, Reno always had a strong interest for the game of baseball. Before the Twins arrived in Minnesota, she remembers listening to New York Yankees games on the radio. Listening to the game wasn’t enough, as Reno found herself jotting down the Yankee lineups and taking note of what each player did in their at-bats. The joy of scorekeeping was manifesting itself at an early age. After high school, Reno attended some baseball games in Marystown, MN with friends; by chance she was asked if she wanted to keep score. She obliged, and thus began her amateur baseball scorekeeping career. A few years later, she met and married her husband Bill, who played for Union Hill. At the time, Bill’s Uncle Ray was the team’s scorekeeper, but there was a particular game he could not attend. Reno was asked to score the game, and she’s been on the job ever since, missing perhaps only 12+ Union Hill games in that time. Years ago, while pregnant all summer with her daughter Veronica (who was born in August), Reno attended each game, fulfilling her duty even in the hot summer months. “It’s fun in there, the guys are so crazy.” 

Reno prefers to use a particular brand of book to keep score, Scoremaster, which is her current brand name of choice. Furthermore, she uses a mechanical pencil so she can write small and get a lot of information in each box. Plus, the pencil allows for erasing, in case she makes a dreaded mistake. Reno takes the job seriously and uses some of her own shortcuts when tracking the game. She’ll add straight lines for a sharp, line drive hit, or a curved line for a looping bloop. The tough calls are when she has to decide if a ball in play was a base hit or an error.

“I usually ask somebody. I don’t like to make the decision because I’m not sure if the ball took a bad bounce; should he have had it, could he have had it?  Obviously, I would like to give all of our guys hits, but I feel I’m pretty wishy-washy when it comes to giving hits or errors. I usually try and ask the coach!”

But longtime Bulldogs catcher Eric Bisek chimed in with what some Union Hill hitters feel, “She is a tough bookkeeper, sometimes we need to beg for hits”.

She’s also ready to offer information about what a particular player has done in a game, but doesn’t outwardly offer a scouting report, “Only if I’m asked!” she was quick to specify. 

In all of the years of keeping score, Reno didn’t have any crazy scoring plays that came to mind, but she has caught and thwarted many illegal substitutions throughout the years. And one of the more pesky scoring plays in baseball, the rundown, she’ll rely on other guys in the dugout to recollect which fielders all had a part in the play. 

For the guys on the team, they perceive the scorebook to be hallowed, only to be scribed by Reno or her next of kin. Some of the Bulldogs players reminisced about instances when Reno had missed a game, and in many of those cases, her daughter Veronica took her place. Bulldogs Manager Adam Gill is allowed to take the scorebook after a handful of games, as he’ll take the tallied stats and enter them online, but he’s sure to get the scorebook back to Reno timely. As of late, technology has enabled scorekeeping to be done on a tablet or phone, with the ability to automatically summarize stats, but don’t try and talk Reno into using them. She enjoys using her current method, “I need to look back, I think they can, but I like to do it this way.”  

Beyond Scorekeeping, becoming “Mrs. Everything”

For Reno, the job began as scorekeeping, but it soon became more than that. “When I first started keeping the book, I only had my purse. But then I realized I had things I carried in there, like fingernail clippers, Kleenex, pens, pencils, little tiny scissors.”

Over the years, players would ask for some of her tools, and soon she realized her purse wasn’t enough for all of the requests. At first, she added a small bag of miscellaneous items. As the years went on, her bag had more pockets. Today, Reno needs the assistance of her husband Buda to lug her bag of miscellaneous items to the dugout. Other items she’s added over the years include: a Philips and  straight screwdriver, scissors, knife, lighter, mosquito spray, extra towels, plastic bags, suntan lotion, tape, eye drops, baby powder, first aid items, and a large bottle of ibuprofen.

“I feel pretty bad if I don’t make it to a game or something because if they’re counting on (it or me), they’ll need it,” Reno bashfully added.

While sitting in the dugout pregame, Matt Beckius stopped to ask Reno for eye drops; she had them at the ready. Cullen Smith needed a scissors to snip a glove string, and Reno quickly grabbed one from her bag. As game time approached, a few of the veteran players needed some ibuprofen to ready their bodies for battle. Reno twisted the cap and obliged the cupped hands of those in need. She also had a bag full of towels and handed some out to those who called for one. After the game, the players will pile them up and she’ll take them home to wash for the next game.

“She’s like the team mom,” said Manager Adam Gill.

“She’s washed my pants before,” added Eric Bisek.

She’s also been known to sew a broken belt loop on a pair of pants during the game. Perhaps most important, to Manager Adam Gill, Reno also wears a watch. “She always has the exact time; it helps with batting practice, infield and she helps keep us on time.” 

Reno sets up shop in the dugout in her “spot”. Her spot is in the center of the home dugout, mostly so she is out of the way. She likes to lean her bag of items against the cement block under her to ensure her bag doesn’t fall down. She also likes to put her feet up on something. At away games, she’ll find a similar spot, maintaining the ability to have everything she needs at her fingertips.

Part of the Team 

Being the lone female in the dugout, Reno has heard plenty of dugout conversations; conversations typically between 20 and 30-year-old men. One can only imagine the things she’s heard. While she says she is typically too busy to hear everything, she still picks up on some.

“I do hear them and I laugh a lot, especially before the games, and even during the game. At first, the language was a little. . . . a little colorful, but then there was often the apologies, and by then I would just tune out. I knew they were going to talk like they talk.” 

Manager Adam Gill reminisced about the one time Reno gathered the team together and gave an emotional team speech. It was 2012, and the team had been struggling. Reno had been hearing plenty of comments in the dugout, mostly negative comments about other players behind their backs. Simply put, it made her angry.

“I just told them, if things don’t change here, I’m done; it’s my last game. It ate at me so bad that day; it had happened for a few games already. I can take a lot, but that just got me so upset because I just want them to work together. If you have some ideas, you need to share them.” It was the only time Reno can recall doing such a thing, but it sparked the team. The team went on a run that year and made the State Tournament.

Reno stays motivated to continue all she does, as she loves the game, but more importantly, she loves the guys. “At different times I thought maybe I’d quit, but then as the new ones come in and you get to know them, well then I think, ‘Well now I want to see these guys through.’”  

Manager Adam Gill hopes she continues on, as he so succinctly put it, “She’s the best, that’s for sure.”

-originally posted 6/9/15

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