Eisenreich comes home for a game
Growing up in 1970s St. Cloud, Jim Eisenreich couldn't wait for winter.
''If you ask anybody that knows me, I'm a winter guy," said Eisenreich, who played 15 seasons with five teams in Major League Baseball. "I'm just kind of an outdoor guy."
On the first day of freezing temperatures, Jim's father made a rink in a lot next to their house. They beefed up their rink later in the season by surrounding it by snow.
''Christmas vacation was always the best," Eisenreich said. "We'd play morning, noon and night or until we froze our toes off. And during Vikings games, every time there would be a change in score, Dad would be knockin' on the window. We had a lot of good times."
Jim was a star hockey player at St. Cloud Tech High School.
''In our youth I think hockey was our favorite sport," said Jim's younger brother Charlie Eisenreich, who is the principal at St. Cloud Apollo High School. "We always had the neighbor kids over for games."
Baseball, though, eventually made the Eisenreich name famous. Jim batted .290 with 54 homers and 477 RBI in a career that saw him appear in two World Series (1993, 1997).
And baseball -- as well as charity -- is the reason Jim, 51, is coming back to his hometown to headline the St. Cloud River Bats' Twins Alumni Game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Joe Faber Field.
Other former players of the Twins participating are Corey Koskie, Ron Davis, Al Newman, Jarvis Brown, Juan Berenguer, Brian Raabe and Greg Thayer.
Players will be available for autographs, before, after and even during the game. The River Bats are also planning a postgame fireworks show.
''I get pretty excited every time I come back," said Jim, who now lives in the Kansas City area. "It's good to catch up with old friends and see family. I sure enjoy where I came from."
Jim was back home earlier this summer.
''I try to make my way back a few times a year," Jim said. "It seems like every time I come back, something is changed."
These days Jim said he spends most of his time with his four children: Lauren, Tyler, Zachary and Matthew. Lauren is a sophomore on the softball team at Missouri State.
Jim also has been running the Jim Eisenreich Foundation, which benefits research for Tourette's syndrome. Jim battled Tourette's himself.
''I try to raise more awareness and at the same time help some kids and families with Tourette's," Jim said. "I try to help with their specific needs. When I was a kid, I didn't really have many options or resources to turn to. We try to offer that resource."
Tourette's forced Jim out of the pro game from 1984-87. Before that he broke into the bigs with his hometown Twins.
In his first game he was the leadoff hitter in the first game at the Metrodome.
''I honestly don't remember a whole lot, but I know I was very fortunate," Jim said. "I was the local kid, leading off in the first game of the brand new stadium. Floyd Bannister was the starter for Seattle -- his son Brian is here now in Kansas City -- he got me to go 0-for-3. My first at-bat was a little tapper back to Floyd. I didn't get a hit until the third game."
The Eisenreich family was in attendance for the game.
''We all went down to the dome, a group of like 30 of us," Charlie said. "We all wore Hawaiian shirts: I'm not sure why. I just remember everybody feeling so extremely proud.
''I mean, he had his struggles with Tourette's, but here is the local boy doing so well."
When Jim briefly left baseball, Kirby Puckett was called up to fill the roster spot.
Jim, though, would get his glory once he returned to the game.
He worked his way to become a regular on a competitive Royals team. In 1993 he went on to the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost in the World Series to Toronto.
''I still stay in great touch with the Phillies organization," Jim said. "They've brought me back a few times including just a few weeks ago. And the team now is just great. They have a lot of energy and are just a fun organization to watch. The players are so talented and personable."
In Jim's second crack at the World Series as a member of the Florida Marlins in 1997, he finally got his ring.
And it happened in one of the most dramatic endings to a World Series: a 3-2, 11-inning win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7.
Edgar Renteria had the walk-off hit, a chopper over pitcher Charles Nagy that scored Craig Counsell from third. Jim was on second base.
''All I had to do was get to third safely," Jim said. "That was pretty exciting. That's what you play the game for.
''I've had a lot of exciting, really good moments but to win a World Series in Game 7, in the bottom of the 11th on a walk off -- there is nothing better than it."
And of course Jim had friends and family in the announced crowd of 67,204 that night at Pro Player Stadium.
''I still vividly remember that stadium erupting," Charlie said. "It was just a lot of fun. I was happy to see him with a ring."
Jim was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the famous Marlins post-World Series fire sale. That's where he ended his career.
But in his heart, St. Cloud was always home.
''I do really enjoy coming back," Jim said. "I just hope I don't embarrass myself out there."
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(c) 2010, St. Cloud Times, Minn.
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