Pride Baseball: Seven years in the making
By Mike Warren/Tim Kraus
Part two of a two-part series
MARSHFIELD – Marshfield’s Pride baseball team celebrated their successes this past summer, and took their final trip as teammates, when they went to Colorado in July to participate in a tournament against some of the Centennial State’s top talent. The group was also recognized on the Coors Field scoreboard when they saw the Colorado Rockies play the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 16.
The trip out west, however, was the culmination of a journey that began in July 2013. After watching a disappointing U11 baseball tournament in Adams-Friendship, a few parents approached fellow parent and spectator, Tim Kraus asking if he would coach a team made up of boys from Marshfield, Spencer, Stratford, and Pittsville.
Kraus said that after some “extensive discussion on team and parent expectations and parameters,” he accepted the opportunity, and PRIDE (Positive Results In Dedicated Efforts) Baseball began.
He said, initially, the main goal was to get the boys acclimated to playing the right way, with respect for the game at the forefront.
Taking advantage of each and every teaching moment that arose, the boys were continuously soaking up techniques, rules and baseball fundamentals that they were able to take back and apply to their high school and American Legion careers as well.
From the first game, and victory, as 11-year-olds in Marathon, the Pride went on to play teams from seven different states, winning better than 70 percent of their games, and all while capturing more than 20 tournament championships.
Their run ended with a decisive win over Greeley, CO, on a baseball field with a mountain view.
Kraus said that each player refers to the experience as a family, and not just a team, and that includes the coach, too.
“I’m going to miss these guys,” Kraus said. “These are my boys, not just my players. They’ve committed to the program, keeping their noses clean all year long, making sure that academics were where they needed to be, and staying focused on what it takes to be good all-around individuals.”
And while their time together on the playing field may have come to an end, they all agree they’re “teammates” for life.
“As a ball player and a person, I’ve grown from playing on the Pride baseball team”, says Jonah Zoschke, of Neillsville. “I’ve learned more about baseball, specifically the minor details needed to elevate your game to the next level. I’ve also learned the importance of leadership, respect towards opponents and teammates, as well as resiliency.
“Pride baseball has grown my love for the game more than I thought was possible. Baseball was never my favorite sport growing up, but getting to play with so many exceptional ball players made me look forward to summer season. I enjoy hanging out with this team just as much as getting on the field and playing.”
Parker Weik, of Marshfield, added, “The thing I’ll miss the most about the Pride team is all of the time spent together. It is a really fun group of guys to be around.”
Kale Weisenberger, of Stratford, had similar sentiments. “I will definitely be staying in touch with the Pride players and coaches. We have all grown very close.”
Weisenberger also said Pride baseball presented a great learning opportunity, too.
“The competition we faced during Pride was much higher than with other teams I have played on. We were facing teams from bigger cities and different states. Since joining Pride, I have learned a lot of the technical aspects of the game and the small things that other people look over. I believe that since joining Pride I have started paying more attention to the finer details and making sure I am playing the game the right way”, he added.
Weisenberger’s Stratford teammate, Cam Daul, agreed. “The competition level was much better than any high school baseball. Every team was made up of nine solid players,”Daul said. “Pride is what taught me everything I know about fielding, and it is the reason that I have success at shortstop. My overall experience on this team was great. It made me a way better player and a better teammate, all while occupying me summer after summer.”
Neillsville’s Carson Opelt said Pride baseball “wasn’t a baseball team, it was a family.”
And while Opelt’s “family” grew, so did his knowledge of the game.
“The competition is just about as good as you can get for a small town baseball team,”he said. “I have learned everything from the fundamentals to the fine points that college coaches look for. It showed me how to become a real athlete in the sport of baseball.”
Perhaps Parker Weik summed up the experience the best. “It was truly an amazing experience.”