Wirth receives Mike Downes award for nearly six decade service to amateur baseball

By Nick Gerhardt

ScoreMonster Contributor

news@mnbaseball.org

Since Leo Wirth arrived in Kimball back in 1964, you’d be hard pressed to find an activity or an organization that he hasn’t held a role. 

Wirth’s most notable contributions have come in athletics at Kimball High School and amateur baseball. He’s spent 54 years as the Central Valley League secretary and 35 years as a regional commissioner. At the Oct. 8 Minnesota Baseball Association Board of Directors meeting, he received the Mike Downes Memorial Award for his outstanding service to amateur baseball. 

Kimball Express manager Tom Marquardt first became acquainted with Wirth as a teenager in Kimball when Wirth managed the Express. 

“He’s been loyal to the community and whatever he’s been involved with,” Marquardt said. “He put his heart and soul into the community of Kimball.”

Wirth arrived in Kimball as a vocational agriculture teacher and started playing amateur ball in Kimball. It wasn’t long before he began managing the Kimball team and he took on the school’s activities director role in 1971 and held the activities director position for 30 years. He also held the school’s assistant principal title for 11 years. He made his mark in growing the number of activities and teams the school offered by nearly four-fold. 

Kimball High School’s gym bears his name to honor his decades of service to athletics in the community where he has held many positions. He’s coached volleyball, officiated junior high and junior varsity games for volleyball, football, basketball, baseball and softball. Additionally, he’s worked the clock and the official book for boys and girls varsity basketball games. 

Back in the early 1980s, Kimball sustained flood damage, in particular the baseball field suffered significant damage. Wirth spent two years, from 1983-85, leading the effort to get the field back in shape.

Wirth has stepped in when there’s a need in the community or elsewhere. He took over as league secretary at 27 when the position opened and his years as an activities director served him well later as a regional commissioner.

The Central Valley League has long paired with other leagues to form a region and the makeup of the region Wirth oversaw has changed through the years, leading Wirth to collaborate with many people in the area.

“I was regional commissioner of so many different leagues,” Wirth said. “I was involved with six or seven different leagues.”

The past several years have seen the Central Valley League paired with the Stearns County League and the Sauk Valley League. One half of the CVL pairs with either the Stearns or the Sauk each year and alternates the next year. It’s a unique alliance to the MBA, but it’s worked for each league. 

“It just seemed like the Central Valley needed to fit in somewhere,” Wirth said.

Wirth has worked with the Victory League, North Star League, Corn Belt and Lakewood League as well.

During his tenure as regional commissioner and league secretary he’s often let teams figure things out and step in when he’s needed. It’s been a collaborative process rather than him deciding things.

This past year Wirth stepped down as Central Valley League secretary. Wirth has spent the past six years battling melanoma and receives chemotherapy. He says he takes it day by day now.

“He’s always had a positive attitude,” Marquardt said. “He’s always had a good outlook on life.”

Wirth certainly hasn’t shied away from challenges throughout his life. Wirth helped lead the effort to build a new United Methodist Church in Kimball back in 1990 with a team of volunteers from Indiana Methodist churches. He also helped create the summer recreation program and lead a group to construct a golf course in Kimball.

Wirth has received numerous honors throughout his career. He’s a member of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame and was named the Region 5A Athletic Director of the Year in 1998. 

“He’s the first one to volunteer to get stuff done or start a fundraiser,” Marquardt said. “He’s invaluable, you kind of rely on him to do some of that stuff.”

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