THE TROJAN FOOTBAL TEAM is shown above with Mike Max (#22 in front row) of WCCO TV and Radio at practice last Friday, Aug. 19. Max participated in practice while the WCCO crew was in Ortonville for their “Goin’ to the Lake” summer feature. Max played quarterback for the Trojans for a number of plays to the enjoyment of the players and coaches. Max, along with news anchor Frank Vascellaro, spent last Thursday and Friday broadcasting at various locations in Ortonville.

Rox set play Sobieski this Saturday in State Tourney

By Chris Doney

As the Ortonville Rox move on to the 93rd Annual Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, they would like to extend their appreciation to the community of Ortonville. The Rox would like to thank all the local business sponsors and faithful fans for making Ortonville a great baseball community. Because of Ron Thomas’s tireless fundraising efforts, the players truly understand their inability to play baseball without your support! 

Over the past week, the Rox and Ron Thomas received more statewide media attention than ever before.  While on a radio interview with Mike Max, Dave Hartmann, secretary of the Minnesota Baseball Association, mentioned the Ortonville Rox story including the tragic loss of their manager Ron Thomas and 2016 being their first state tournament appearance since 1969.  That conversation sparked some interest for Mike Max.  He wanted to learn more about our hometown team and Ron Thomas. Two nights later, John Thomas was being interviewed by Mr. Max for a TV spot which aired Friday night and a live radio spot, which took place at the Lakewood Supper Club.

For those that may have missed the interviews,  they highlighted a dark day in Rox history, the funeral of late manager Ron Thomas. However, with the darkness there was light.  On that same day, John and Chris Fellows gathered some Rox players for an informal team meeting. During the meeting it was announced that Curt Schake would return from retirement in honor of Ron, Bruce Doney and Chris Doney agreed to sign contracts to return to the Rox, and Riley Sammon, Jeff Watson, Chance Haugen and Joe Fuller made commitments to playing as many games as possible during the 2016 season.  The common goal was to make a state tournament appearance. Ron always knew this team was talented enough to play in the state tournament, but for one reason or another it had continued to prove elusive. Finally, after 10 years under the watchful eye of Ron Thomas, the Rox have made it to the State Amateur Baseball Tournament. 

Rox veteran pitcher Curt Schake, with his thoughts on the 2016 season going into the state tournament, “I am fortunate to be a part of this dream season with the Rox. I know Ron is looking down on us with a slight smile on his face, but certainly commenting “why the heck couldn’t you guys have done this last year?”  I miss you Ron, but have heard your coaching from above.”

This year a lot of credit has been given to Ron Thomas for his contributions to the Ortonville Rox.  But, John Thomas and the core of Rox players including Joe Fuller, Chance Haugen and Curt Schake would like to publicly thank Curt Arndt for his contributions to the Rox.  Mr. Arndt contributed to this team in a generous and selfless manner.  It was Mr. Arndt who should be credited with starting this Ortonville baseball tradition back in 2003. After the 2002 season, the Rox team folded, as many players went on to the Rosen Express.  Mr. Arndt then brought this talented group of young baseball players together. If not for him, the recent success the Rox are having would not have been possible.  The startup team organized by Arndt 2003 was named the Ortonville-Browns Valley Bombers, but thanks to Arndt it became the Rox once again in 2004.  Again, thank you Curt Arndt for recognizing the talent of these young men and keeping it within the Ortonville baseball community.

This past weekend was the opening weekend of the 93rd Annual Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament.  The state baseball championship is being hosted by the Hutchinson Huskies, Dassel-Cokato Saints and Litchfield Blues.  Because of flooding at Veteran’s Memorial Field in Hutchinson, games were moved to the Brownton Bruins homefield. This past weekend, 16 teams were eliminated and the Rox are now one of 32 teams that will play next weekend.  With the single elimination format, another 16 teams will be eliminated, leaving the top 16 to compete in the final weekend over Labor Day.  The Rox certainly hope to win their way into that final weekend, which includes four games in three days to win the state championship.

Currently, the Rox are set to play the Sobieski Skis on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 11 a.m in Hutchinson.  However, it is possible the Hutchinson field will remain unplayable forcing the games back to Brownton.

What the Rox do know is their opponent will be tough. The Skis are making their 17th state tournament appearance since the Rox were there in 1969.  That includes a 2014 state championship with 2016 being their fifth straight state tournament appearance.  Sobieski beat a young, talented, athletic Worthington team 8-0 to advance to the second round. The Rox will spend this week preparing to face Tyler Jendro, Sobieski’s ace pitcher who struck out nine Worthington batters on his way to victory.  The Rox will also look to play error free defense as Sobieski’s sluggers forced six Worthington errors on hard hit balls. 

Win or lose, it will certainly be an exciting weekend for the team. They will head to Hutchinson Friday evening for a practice followed by a good night's rest in the Hutchinson area hotels, followed by a 7-8 a.m. batting practice session.  If possible, make the trip to Hutchinson to support the Rox in their first state tournament appearance in 47 years.

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