The discussion turned from talking about this season’s team to Sauk Rapids’ grads still playing baseball.
Storm head coach Jeff Hille will be the first to admit that he’s not the main reason behind what has become an impressive list, one that should make Hille feel proud.
It started with a discussion about Anthony Bemboom, a catcher in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chain, and went from there.
At the moment, there appear to be nine Sauk Rapids graduates playing baseball collegiately or like Bemboom, who is playing Class A ball for the Midwest League’s Burlington Bees, earning a paycheck for playing the game.
The list, with stats going into Friday or as current as the player’s school’s website has:
* Derek Cagle, a sophomore outfielder at Division III Wisconsin-Superior (he’s 0-for-5 in three games for the Yellowjackets, who are 14-17).
* Travis Cariveau, senior shortstop at Division II St. Cloud State (.261 batting average, 12 RBI, 5 stolen bases, .342 on-base percentage, .319 slugging percentage).
* R.J. Cervenka, freshman infielder at Division III Augsburg (Cervenka hasn’t appeared in a varsity game for the 14-7 Auggies).
* Grant Chapa, freshman right-hander pitcher for St. Cloud Technical & Community College, a Division III JUCO (0-1, 10.29 ERA, 7 innings, 9 strikeouts, 4 walks).
* Brett DeGagne, a sophomore right-handed pitcher at Division I North Dakota, is taking a medical redshirt.
* Andy Henkemeyer, senior outfielder at Division I Minnesota (team-leading .324 average, with 10 doubles, 3 triples, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, .366 OBP).
* Jason Hoppe, junior right-hander at Division II Minnesota State-Mankato (5-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 50 innings, with 55 strikeouts and 16 walks).
* Ryan Paasch, junior right-hander at Division II Minnesota-Crookston (0-1 with a 13.50 ERA in 12 appearances for the Eagles, who are 0-33).
The thought was that Hoppe and Henkemeyer could interest pro teams, though that opinion was coming from the fat guy at the top of this column.
“We don’t want any of these guys back,” said Hille, a player/manager of the Sauk Rapids Cyclones amateur baseball team. “We want a couple of them to keep going and come back when they’re 30 or 40.”
In addition, former baseball player Ethan Prow is playing hockey at St. Cloud State. Mitch Gwost just wrapped up a strong season as a defenseman with the Granite City Lumberjacks junior hockey team.
“It’s really fun when you get kids like that,” Hille said. “A lot of their success has to do with supportive families and families where baseball is important.
“I’ve been fortunate to have them come through our program.”
Bemboom’s senior year was Hille’s first year in the program as a volunteer assistant. Brent Pakkula was the head coach.
Bemboom was quick to praise his high school program.
“It’s good to see guys from Sauk Rapids getting an opportunity to play,” he said. “Jeff has a lot to do with it. He definitely knows what it takes, having been a college pitcher himself (at North Dakota State).
“He knows what it takes to get an opportunity to play after high school.”
* St. Cloud Cathedral graduate Andrew Thome is 3-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 54.1 innings for North Dakota this season. The sophomore right-hander has 44 strikeouts and 18 walks for UND, who are 12-15.
* Albany graduate Kurt Schlangen is batting .276 with nine RBI in 25 games for the 24-13 Gophers, where he is a senior starting catcher.
* Add Dave Pflepsen and Dick Henkemeyer to the list of Sauk Rapids graduates who played professional baseball. Pflepsen was an infielder in the New York Yankees chain from 1960-62. Henkemeyer was a left-handed pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization in 1981-82.
That brings the number of known Sauk Rapids grads who played professional baseball to six, including Rip Repulski, Bob Hegman, Jeremiah Piepkorn and Bemboom.
* Hille has six seniors on this season’s team, including second baseman Joel Haller, shortstop Tyler Long, right-handed pitcher Trevor Waldorf and outfielders Zach Silbernick, Clayton Douvier and Justin Thorson.
“We’re pretty junior heavy,” Hille said.
Everyone will throw with the Storm backed up with doubleheaders, like everyone else in the area.
“We’ll throw everybody and the kitchen sink,” Haller said.
Haller has committed to St. Cloud Technical & Community College to play baseball for head coach Jason Fischer’s highly successful program. The Cyclones were in the Junior College World Series last season. Haller’s father, John Haller, is the activities director at the college.