John Hanowski believes student athletes work harder today than ever before.
He would know. The Little Falls Flyers head baseball coach, VFW baseball coach and father of three boys is around high school and junior high athletes year round.
It’s only half the reason Hanowski will be inducted into the 2011 Minnesota Baseball Association Hall of Fame Sept. 17. The Little Falls native will be joined by Duane Gaulke, Terry Gieser, Don Goracke, Ken Kuck and Wendell Stuewe.
Hanowski’s resume reads like this: He graduated from Little Falls High School in 1976 where he played football and baseball. He played in both the Shriners All-Star football game and the Lions All-Star baseball game before attending St. John’s University where he played on the 1976 NCAA Division III National Championship football team and earned three varsity baseball letters.
He played amateur baseball for the Flensburg Falcons of the Victory League and also managed the Falcons to numerous state tournament appearances.
“It’s a little overwhelming when you look at the list of guys from this area who aren’t in there, like Jack McGrath and Donnie Sorensen,” Hanowski said Thursday night as he was driving the VFW team back home from a win over Apollo. “There are a lot of big names from Little Falls baseball that should be in there. It does give you a little bit more of an appreciation that what you have been doing for so many years is being noticed.”
It should be no surprise Hanowski was at the softball park last Friday when he heard the news of his induction. He spends most of his time at some sort of ballfield. He helped start the Junior Victory League and the Little Falls Baseball travel teams. In addition to coaching the varsity and VFW programs, Hanowski helped build batting cages, cut sod, mended fences, mowed grass, fixed backstops and leveled ballfields.
His oldest son, Beau, plays baseball at South Dakota State University. His middle son, Ben, plays hockey at St. Cloud State University and his youngest son, Joey, will be a senior at Little Falls. All three played baseball for their dad.
“That’s a big part of why I got back into baseball,” said Hanowski. “The teams were not where we hoped they would be so I got back into it for not only my sons, but for the hundreds of kids around them. It’s been a lot of fun. To have your sons on your team was a little bit of pressure on them. I’ve been fortunate in that their performance has more than exceeded their right to be in the lineup.”
As a coach Hanowski has been blessed with many good players and as a father he sees first hand the demands put upon young athletes to not only compete in three sports, but also to prepare year round. He also saw a willingness from young athletes to work hard, too.
“That’s why I helped start the Junior Victory League in Morrison County with Steve Larson,” said Hanowski. “We had more than 100 players from Pierz, Little Falls, Upsala, Swanville and Onamia. Larson is the one that jumped on it and made it a huge success.
“Fourteen years ago there was a demand for travel teams so we put a board together and started travel ball and we had seven teams or 90 kids involved with that. We have provided baseball opportunities for all abilities and all levels and that’s been important to me.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.