A conversation with Brent Engebretson
Brent Engebretson is the head coach of the Velva 39ers summer baseball team.
The Minot Daily News spoke with Engebretson about the team’s return to the baseball field, his favorite baseball memories and more. Some responses are edited for brevity and clarity.
MDN: How does it feel to get the baseball diamond ready again?
BE: The field looks good. It’s the greenest it’s been in a long time. It feels really nice to have something to do other than sit in my house and stare at my TV and the same four walls all day long.
MDN: How have you helped the players stay prepared over the last few months?
BE: We didn’t do anything until about two weeks ago, once our planning and everything to get a season started kind of finished up. It was three to four weeks’ worth of meetings to get us to the point where we felt comfortable having a season. When the governor opened things up a little bit more on May 15, we felt pretty comfortable having a season.
Until then, we didn’t really tell the players anything. It’s kind of fun to just do something again with your friends.
MDN: What do you think makes summer baseball so special?
BE: It’s a little bit more free of all of the stresses of school. It’s a full school day, then you’re turning around and coming to play baseball and everything else. Now, most of our kids have some kind of a job. This is their escape to go play, have some fun with their friends and hopefully have some success. This bunch has gotten along for the last four years. They don’t separate much, and they enjoy each other’s company.
MDN: Over the years, what have you noticed about the competition level between summer baseball teams in North Dakota?
BE: Everybody keeps getting rearranged. We’ve switched levels from “A” to “B.” We’ve switched districts and regions. Bottom line is, every community still comes out and plays summer baseball. It’s at a pretty good level. You get lots of kids out. You get lots of parent involvement, obviously. We’ve got to fundraise, we’ve got to take care of each other and we’ve got to find the best way we can.
We don’t want to withhold anybody an opportunity to play summer baseball. In Velva, we don’t charge any participation fees. We don’t charge anything for anyone. We just want our kids to play. When we find some fundraising opportunities, it’s something that everybody benefits from. Not just one or two.
Surrey and Renville County have been really good over the last couple of years. We travel as far as we need to.
MDN: What personal memories stick out from summer baseball?
BE: I’ve been out of coaching now for the last couple of years. I was watching my youngest son go through Babe Ruth. Some of my favorite moments of summer baseball are the travel dates that you do. Unfortunately, this year, I don’t see anybody hosting an in-season tournament. We used to go to Enderlin and we’ve been to Wahpeton for a state tournament. Anywhere that will play baseball, we’ve loved to go and play.
That’s the memories you make. The wins and losses kind of fade into your memory, but you remember the weekend you spent camping out down in Enderlin and the fun they had splashing around in three-inch water. That’s what is fun about summer baseball.
MDN: What’s your favorite MLB stadium you’ve traveled to?
BE: We’ve been to 10 of them now. It’s funny. Every year, we try to add a couple more. Two summers ago, we were down in (Los Angeles) and San Diego. We got to see the three down there. I love Wrigley Field. It’s my favorite. It’s old, it’s stinky and it’s the old-time traditional stuff. That, by far, is my favorite.
In Minneapolis, Target Field is probably as nice as there is. For the history, Dodger Stadium was great to be at. It’s just fun to see each one, actually picture what you see on TV and get to see it in person.
MDN: Do you have a favorite MLB team?
BE: It’s the Twins now, but I’ve always been a Braves fan. That goes back to when we first got cable TV. Everybody got WGN and the Cubs and TBS and the Braves. I migrated more to the Braves for Dale Murphy. He was kind of my high school idol. Now that we’re closer, it’s a whole lot easier to watch the Twins now and cheer for them.
Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.