ON DECK: Superior’s loss is Heaven’s gainLocal baseball community takes a hit; so long coach Strum
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
The local baseball community suffered a couple of big losses in the past week with the deaths of Gunnar Velin and Adam Bozinski.
Velin, 21, passed away last Friday, while Bozinski, 24, lost a three-year battle with cancer on Wednesday.
Velin, who graduated from Superior High School in 2007, was a fixture at the local baseball fields, either umping or coaching, including in 2006 when he and his dad, Paul, coached the Cal Ripken League Cardinals, which included his younger brother, Garth.
I coached baseball at various levels over the years, and whenever we threw together a scrimmage or a make-up game, Gunnar was always the one we could count on to ump for us.
There were a couple of times he gave up his Saturday or Sunday to ump a doubleheader, and there were even times when he would ump by himself. The remarkable thing was that he usually donated his time.
His presence was also felt among basketball players he coached in the Salvation Army League, evidenced by the following post by Adam LaVine on Gunnar’s obituary on the Superior Telegram website:
“I am Adam and Gunnar was my basketball coach. He helped me a lot. I didn’t have a very good 2nd grade basketball year but I came back and Gunnar taught me everything in the 3rd grade. He is my friend and I miss him. Adam LaVine."
It couldn’t have been said any better.
As for Adam Bozinski, nothing could keep him off a baseball field. Not even when he lost a foot that was filled with cancer.
Soon after being diagnosed with cancer, a tennis ball-sized tumor was found in his foot.
Adam then had the choice of trying to save his foot by removing the tumor, but that would likely mean the end of his baseball career. If he had the entire foot removed, there was a chance he could still play with a special sneaker.
Adam elected to have the entire foot removed and continued playing for his beloved St. Croix Ravens amateur baseball team in Solon Springs. The doctors did such a good job on his new foot that nobody could tell he was an amputee, unless he wore shorts.
Unfortunately, Adam wouldn’t get to play much longer, and when I saw him for the last time at a Superior Spartan baseball game last spring he was in a wheelchair.
Jim Ross made the announcement that he was in attendance and there was loud applause. The Spartans lost the game, but we were all winners for being able to see Adam at a baseball field again.
Memorial services for Adam will be held at 11 a.m. Monday with family greeting friends one hour prior to the service at Vineyard Church, 1533 W. Arrowhead Rd in Duluth.
Visitation for Gunnar is from 5-7 p.m. today at Lenroot-Maetzold Funeral Home, with a Scripture service scheduled for 7 p.m.
Visitation will continue at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church to the 11 a.m. Mass of Christian burial with Rev. Father James Tobolski as celebrant. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, Superior.
So long coach
The local sporting scene also recently lost curling great Bill Strum, who passed away Aug. 28.
Most locals who know that Bill had been a member of world curling championship teams in 1965, 1974 and 1978, and had represented the USA in curling at the Olympics in 1988 and 1992 winning a bronze medal.
But what most don’t know is that at the time, Bill was the only curler on earth to be a member of three world championship teams.
A few of my own memories of Bill were when he, along with curling teammates Bud Somerville and Al Gagne, coached the Wade Bowl Saints Pony League football team.
Those guys were tough, but it paid off as we only lost two games in the three years I played for the Saints.
Our practices included the usual slaughter boxes, tackling and blocking drills, but they also took advantage of the hill at Wade Bowl.
We would do somersaults up and down the hill, then have piggy-back relay races where you would switch off at the top of the hill and then again at the bottom, and then other times do bear crawls both ways.
Another memory of Strum and Saints includes teammate Chris Scharte.
It was raining before one practice and we were staying dry in the garage at Wade Bowl where they stored the blocking dummies and other football equipment, which was also used by the Central Junior High School team.
While we were waiting for the coaches to arrive, Scharte climbed into the rafters above the door and when a player entered the garage, he would drop a blocking dummy on his head.
The only thing is that Scharte couldn’t see who was coming and when coach Strum neared the door, players told him to get ready, and then he dropped a dummy on Strum.
That didn’t sit too well with coach and Scharte had to run laps around the goalposts the entire practice.
We also got to have our end-of-season parties at the old Curling Club and one year got to watch a film of the coaches winning one of their world curling titles.