St. Cloud Times: Zellmann retiring from baseball board

Posted on Sept. 1, 2015

Article courtesy of Tom Elliott, St. Cloud Times

WATKINS – The joke about the Minnesota Baseball Association state board is that it is, well …. a bit long in the tooth.

Bob Zellmann, who could be called the head fossil on the board, agrees.

It’s why he confirmed this weekend that when his term expires, he will retire from his post that governs amateur baseball in the state.

“Don’t you think it’s time?” he asked.

Well, actually, no.

“I just think it’s time,” Zellmann said. “It’s getting tougher.

“Put it this way. I still enjoy it. It’s time some younger blood gets in here. It’s been a good run.”

Zellmann, 81, wraps up 30 years on the board in two months, spending most of that time as the board’s secretary-treasurer. It’s one of the board’s most work-intensive jobs. He handles player contracts and a lot of the finances.

It takes a lot of time and it helps that Zellmann, from Norwood, is long retired after 35 years with the U.S. Postal Service.

He passed on the secretary-treasurer duties over the winter to fellow board member Dave Hartmann of Belle Plaine, “so I could help him out a little while I’m still around,” Zellmann said.

Zellmann goes back to when the St. Cloud area controlled the board. Dick Putz, of St. Cloud, was the longtime president. Urban Spanier of Spring Hill was a longtime board member and staunch advocate for town-team ball in these parts. Both have died.

“We had a lot of changes over the years,” Zellmann said. “We went from wood bats to aluminum back to wood bats again and I think that’s really been great for the game.”

He said he harbored no ill will to anyone who disagreed with him or the board and that he always respected and got along well with the rest of the board members.

His migration to the board wasn’t planned. He was a longtime player, playing on state-tournament teams in the 1950s that were some of Norwood’s best.

He was an official in the Crow River League and eventually a region commissioner before getting elected to the board.

“To tell you the truth, there aren’t many disappointments,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great people over the years.

“There have been a lot of great board members and great presidents and there has been good support among us. I think we worked together pretty good.”

Two issues the board has dealt with a lot over the past few years is distinguishing the difference between a Class B and Class C team.

Class A is made up of inner-ring Twin Cities teams. Class B is the best in outstate Minnesota. College players are allowed and there is no drafting.

Class C teams are more traditional smalltown teams. No college players not from the immediate area are allowed. Teams do draft pitchers in the playoffs and for the state tournament.

An awful lot of Class B teams in the state want to be Class C. Sauk Rapids is one.

“It’s still an issue,” he said. “You don’t get better playing a lower class.

“We played everybody. We were all in one class.”

The board also has wrangled over the size, scope and scheduling of the state tournament. There is a lot of discussion of seeding the thing and altering the 48-team Class C field especially.

Many teams aren’t thrilled with the first-round byes for region champs. It ends up not being much of an advantage. There are also issues of who plays whom in the brackets.

Zellmann’s not too terribly sympathetic.

“Years ago, when we made the state tournament, we were just happy we made it,” Zellmann said. “We didn’t care who we played.

“Teams pressure you with time slots and who they play and where. We could care less who we played. We were in.”

He says he sees future boards continuing to deal with classifications and possibly altering the 30-mile radius from which teams may draw players.

“That comes up a lot,” he said.

His mobility is another reason for leaving the board. He has arthritis.

“It’s getting hard to get into these state tournament trailers,” he said Saturday at the trailer in Watkins.

Wish him good luck in retirement.


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