KASSON — Broc Threinen doesn't kid himself or others about who is directly responsible for the long-running success of the Kasson-Mantorville High School baseball team.
"The kids win the games, that's for sure," said Threinen, whose KoMets are at the Class AA state tournament this week for a third time in four years.
"Our biggest challenge is to get the kids to come out and stay out for spring sports," explained Threinen, who has been K-M's head baseball coach since 2004. "We've just been super lucky to keep the kids that do come out; many of them stick with it through their senior year."
This K-M baseball team is a good example with eight seniors and eight juniors.
"We have a good youth league, from T-ball on up, and we all played a lot of ball when we were younger," said Nic Bauer, a senior and fourth-year varsity player.
But Bauer and Jayden Prigge, another senior and fourth-year varsity player, agree that there's another key reason for K-M's baseball success: Threinen, whom they describe as fair and sensible, soft-spoken yet firm, and fun to play for above all.
Laid back, seriously
In his 11th season as the KoMets' head coach Threinen is already closing in on 200 career wins with a 196-81 record (.707), and he has K-M at state for a fourth time. K-M finished fourth in 2005 and is the defending Class AA state champion.
"He's definitely laid back, that's for sure," Prigge said. "He always has time for fun, but he also knows when to get serious. He definitely has a lot of knowledge about the game, and he knows how to coach."
"He wants us to have respect for the game and he expects us to play it the right way," Bauer said. "We don't like to let him down."
The two team leaders said they will miss having Threinen as their coach, but their relationship will surely go on.
"I've enjoyed playing for him for many years," Bauer said. "I've gotten very close to him."
"He's one of the better guys I've ever met," Prigge said. "I consider him like a friend now."
'The Running Helmet'
Threinen, who also guided the K-M football team back to the state playoffs last fall in his first season as head coach, feels fortunate to be teaching and coaching in the school system he grew up in.
He was standout athlete in three sports at K-M in the mid 1990's, in football, wrestling and baseball. As a wrestler he qualified for state three times and won more than 140 matches.
Threinen didn't let his small physical stature deter him from playing college football. He played four seasons as an outside linebacker at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, at 5-feet-8 and 180 pounds.
"I think I was the smallest linebacker in the conference; my teammates called me 'The Running Helmet,'" he shared with a laugh.
Threinen landed his first teaching job back at K-M directly out of college, as a high school biology and anatomy teacher, and he began coaching in the football and baseball programs right away.
"I didn't have a set plan on coming back here but I was excited to get back, and it was great to get into the (sports) programs right away," he said.
Threinen insists that others have had a hand in K-M's baseball success, from his assistant coaches to his wife Laura and their two young daughters, Ava, 7, and Taya, 4.
He rattles off a list of coaches who have helped him in the last decade; Ben Johnson, Phil Knoll, Chris Strinmoen, Scott Threinen, and the current staff of Matt Franke, Jon Fish and Ryan Haraldson.
"I've learned a bit from every one of these guys, some of whom were so gracious to volunteer," he said. "We've been pretty lucky."
Broc's wife Laura has coached volleyball in the Byron high school program, so she appreciates the sacrifices and rewards of what he is doing.
"I'm probably the second-best coach in our household," he said.