BUCKMAN -- Alvin Funk's farm near Buckman features cows and chickens and the typical buildings and machinery associated with a rural homestead.
What makes the farm unique is a batting cage where Scott Boser, and other members of the Buckman Billygoats amateur baseball team, go to sharpen their swings.
Boser was selected most valuable player of last year's Class C state tournament and helped Buckman to the state championship. He probably has access to the cage more often than other Billygoats since he is the son-in-law of Funk, the Billygoats' manager.
The cage is set up in a 55-foot by 14-foot shed and includes a pitching machine. The shed can be heated in the winter for off-season hitting.
"We had a fund-raiser one year," said Boser, whose team will open the Victory League season Sunday with a road game against the Pierz Brewers. "We wanted to get a cage up at the ball diamond. Instead, we put it in the shed here."
Boser hits in the cage about twice a week until teammate Scott Geiger finishes school at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
"He calls me up about three nights a week," Boser said, "so we go in there and hit. He's probably in there more than I am when he's home."
Boser's workouts in the cage undoubtedly help him terrorize opposing pitchers. At state he broke the tournament record for hits, going 19-for-35 (.543 average) in seven games. He scored 13 runs, hit six home runs, tied the tournament record for RBI (17) and finished with a phenomenal slugging percentage (.943).
"I think about it every day," Boser said of Buckman's title. "After the first game, the way we hit the ball, I think everyone had the feeling we were going to win it. Everything clicked."
The Billygoats clicked at an opportune time. They won the Victory League East Division regular-season title but failed to win the division playoffs or the Region 8C title.
At state they defeated Dodge Center 14-5, Deer Creek 8-5, Montgomery 5-3, Sauk Centre 7-0 and Green Isle 7-1 before losing 23-16 to Green Isle in the double-elimination finals. Buckman bounced back to beat Green Isle 16-6 for the title.
Boser was somewhat amazed to win the MVP award considering he couldn't run full speed because of a pulled groin muscle.
"It was a great honor," he said. "I think it was two years ago we went to the state tournament and I had four hits, two home runs, and we lost out. I thought then maybe I could get it if we kept winning. We went back last year and I hit the ball well."
The 32-year-old center fielder received his MVP award from Pierz resident Jim Fischer, a member of the Minnesota Baseball Association board of directors.
"About three weeks ago Jim was talking to me at a baseball meeting and said he also gave the MVP award to Terry Steinbach and Jim Eisenreich," Boser said. "Then he gave it to me. He said it was an honor to give it to me because I'm from around here."
Buckman's reward for winning the Class C state title is to play in the Class B playoffs this season. Each year the Class C champion is shifted to Class B to prevent one team from dominating the tournament.
"It will be a challenge," Boser said of moving to Class B with teams like the Brainerd Bees, Ultimate Sports of Waite Park and the Cold Spring Springers. "But it's only right for winning the Class C tournament that you have to move up. I think we will be OK.
"Todd Robinson will be pitching again this year. Last year his arm was sore. This year he says he's fine. That will be a big plus for us."
Boser said other pluses are the addition of Peter and Paul Herman from Little Falls and Dave Woitalla, whom Buckman drafted from the Bulldogs for the state tournament.
Woitalla will catch until Geiger returns from MSU. Robinson and Joel Hendrickson will be in the Billygoats' starting rotation.
The remainder of Buckman's lineup is likely to include Paul Cekalla at first base, Josh Samler at second, Chris Hoheisel at short, Wade Bauer at third, and Boser, Brandon Lochner and Robert Funk in the outfield.
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