Family's field of dreams helps lift Floodwood to state baseball tourneyThough no cornfields with legendary players emerging from the stalks exist across from the Bernsdorf family home in Meadowlands, this field of dreams is a key reason why Floodwood High School’s baseball team is making history this week.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
Though no cornfields with legendary players emerging from the stalks exist across from the Bernsdorf family home in Meadowlands, this field of dreams is a key reason why Floodwood High School’s baseball team is making history this week.
As baseball-loving youngsters, Trevor and Riley Bernsdorf quickly outgrew hitting in the backyard, so the boys’ father, Brian, came up with another option about eight years ago.
“I got tired of the boys hitting the ball over the house; I was afraid something would get broken,” he said. “So we asked a neighbor lady if we could use her field. That’s how we started the baseball field.”
Eventually outfitted with a pitching mound, bases and a backstop, the Bernsdorfs had found a haven for their passion. That’s usually where they can be found — pitching to each other or holding home run derbies until the sun goes down.
“We will come home (from practice) and hit off the tee and pitch live, anything to just play the game,” 17-year-old Riley said. “That’s what we love to do.”
“We can’t get enough of it,” 18-year-old Trevor added. “We’ve been lucky to have each other to do that with.”
The Polar Bears have benefitted as well. Led by the dual-threat brothers, the school qualified for its first state tournament in any sport. Floodwood (17-2) faces second-seeded New York Mills (19-2) in a Class A quarterfinal at 5:30 p.m. today at the Mini-Met in Jordan, Minn., with the winner moving on to Friday’s semifinals against either Osakis or Blackduck.
Trevor, a senior pitcher-shortstop completing his sixth season on varsity, is batting .586 with 24 RBIs; Riley, a sophomore catcher when not pitching, bats .525 with 26 RBIs. They are a combined 11-1 pitching with stellar earned-run averages.
The reason for their amazing numbers may be directly tied to all the hours they spend on that groomed neighborhood field.
“It’s a big part of it,” Trevor said. “We’re so connected from all the time we spent out there. When I’ve pitched and he’s been catching (in high school games), I don’t think I’ve wiped off a sign all year. It’s like playing catch with your brother.”
Coach Adam Johnson noticed something unique when he took over four seasons ago. The 1995 Floodwood graduate didn’t see a team that had won only five games the year before, he saw unlimited potential.
By the end of that first season, the Polar Bears were in the Section 7A championship game and they continued to be a threat the past two years before finally winning it all.
“From the first day I stepped in the gym, I saw the potential of this group of seniors,” Johnson said. “But never in my wildest dreams was I expecting a section final my first year. This has been a great four-year run for these guys to win 61 games at a school that traditionally hasn’t won a lot of baseball games.”
While stalwarts such as Ross Schminski and Justin Hall have played big roles, it’s the Bernsdorfs, with their obsession of the game, who embody the heart and soul of the team.
“They would play baseball every single day, if given the opportunity,” Johnson said. “They eat, sleep and drink it.”
That’s certainly the hope for the next several days as the championship game is scheduled for Monday at Target Field in Minneapolis.
While their mom, Patti, and older siblings, Tyler and Lacey, will be in attendance today, the man who Trevor says gave the brothers their love of the game and groomed their field will not. Brian Bernsdorf, who coached his sons in Pee-Wee and Little League, will be on the job in the operations department at Cleveland-Cliffs in Babbitt.
He said he probably will follow the team’s progress via texting and will cheer them on to further glory.
“It was nice that they finally broke through and won (the section),” he said. “Now they get to do something they’ll remember forever.”