In the fifth inning, Kevin Mertens and Fred Weiss ran out and helped lift an infield dragging device onto a four-wheeler.
Following a 5-1 victory over Moorhead on Friday, both Brainerd Warriors were helping groom Adamson Field for the next round of the North Subsection 8, Class 3A tournament.
It was meaningful that Mertens and Weiss were helping because both are sporting casts on their hands following season-ending injuries. But, although disappointed not to be able to play, both continue to demonstrate what being a team player is all about.
Mertens broke a bone in his right hand May 12, diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt against Willmar. He will wear a cast for at least six weeks. He may be ready to begin throwing two weeks later.
He finished his senior year with a 6-0 record and 0.64 ERA. In 32-plus innings, he struck out 43 and allowed just 16 hits. He was a virtual lock to pitch in the Lions All-Star Series and plans to play for Minnesota-State, Mankato next year.
"Actually, it's really difficult," Mertens said of watching. "I want to get out there and help them make it to state. It just feels like I'm not doing anything for the team now. It's hard."
Weiss, the starting right fielder, broke the ring finger on his left hand May 15 following an 11-1 victory at Sauk Rapids.
It was the sixth time he has broken a bone in his left hand. This winter he broke the same finger. When he jumped off a diving board at the high school pool he got his hand caught inside one of the lane markers.
"I was getting into my car," Weiss said of his most recent mishap. "When I shut the door my hand slipped in there, caught in the handle, it just bent and it rebroke in the same exact spot.
"I went to Dr. (Robert) Brown and he said it was a freak accident. He said he had never seen something like that. He thought it must not have been fully healed. He said you would think after two months it would be healed, but apparently it wasn't fully healed."
Brainerd center fielder Blake Eller watched the flight of his two-run single in Friday's game. Eller finished with three RBI. (Dispatch Photos by Clint Wood)
Weiss was batting .255 when sidelined, with eight doubles, one home run and 11 RBI. After startling slowly he was beginning to find his swing.
"It just seems like stuff like this always happens to me," Weiss said. "In football my junior year I had clubs on both my hands. Baseball it's a little different because you have to be using your hands all the time.
"It's really disappointing. I was looking forward to this year a lot. At least I got to play some."
Although Weiss conceded it has been difficult to watch, he and Mertens are making the best of the situation.
"The first week, even watching the Twins on TV I couldn't stand to watch it," said Weiss, who plans to play football and baseball at Concordia College in Moorhead next year. "It's getting a little better now.
"At least I have someone to share it with. I'm not the only one. Me and Kevin have been playing catch, doing the Jim Abbott stuff, catching it with one hand, taking off the glove and throwing it. We're just trying to put it behind us because there's nothing we can do about it now."
Teammate Aaron Jenkins said team morale remains high.
"We're still looking forward to (the postseason)," Jenkins said. "We still have a good chance of advancing."
Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said the team appears to be recovering from the loss of two teammates of that caliber.
"Kevin, we felt, was one of the top pitchers in the state," Scearcy said, "and Fred was a great outfielder. We started Fred out as our cleanup hitter. He was just starting to get in a groove when he got hurt, and he was a big power hitter for us.
"It's a significant loss, but I think the kids have handled it pretty well and Kevin and Fred have handled it well. They've been here at practice every day, shagging balls. They painted Brainerd Warriors (near the plate) here for us (Thursday), they were picking up the drag. They're being good team members right now and I think that's important."
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