Howard Lake Orphans Amateur Baseball Team
It as back to normal in 2012 for the Howard Lake Orphans.
After missing the state tournament for the first time in a long time in 2011, the Orphans won the Region 12C tournament in 2012, advancing to the Class C state tournament in St. Cloud.
By winning the region tournament, the Orphans received an opening round bye in the state tournament.
In the round of 32, the Orphans faced Midway, beating them 2-0.
With the win over Midway, Howard Lake advanced to Labor Day weekend, and faced off with Waterville.
In a thriller, the Orphans pulled out a 2-1 win in 10-inning.
However, the season then came to an end in the final eight, losing to Green Isle 8-1.
This past season was a bit of a transistion season for the Orphans, as a handful of long-time veterans hung up the spikes.
Those retiring prior to the season included Tim Sonnek, Jake Streich, and John Stueven.
Mike Gagnon is the Orphans long-time manager.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake goes back a long way, starting in 1905.
Back in 1905, they were named the Blue Sox.
Throughout the early 1900s, Howard Lake eventually lost the nickname, but gained a new one in 1947.
Playing their home games in Cokato that year, as their field was being refurbished and couldn’t be played on, they started getting called the Orphans, and the name stuck.
The Orphans made their first state tournament appearance in 1951.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake ceased from 1942-1946 due to World War II, but the Orphans took back to the field after the war, and thrived until 1967, when the team folded.
The 1970s and 1980s were a dark period for town team baseball in Howard Lake, as they had no team, with many players playing in neighboring towns.
The team did try to come back in 1991, and also fielded a team in 1992, but then folded again.
That is when a group led by current manager Mike Gagnon and Kevin Gruenhagen started the Orphans back up, and it has been a success ever since.
Howard Lake has advanced to 10 state tournaments, with their first one coming in 1951, followed by 1995, 1998, 2001, and finally 2006 through 2010, and lastly 2012.
The Orphans play their home games at Memorial Park in Howard Lake, which is located on the shores of Howard Lake.
Over the past decade, the park has seen a number of improvements, including seating behind home plate, a batters’ eye, and a grass infield, among other improvements.
All of those improvements, along with more to come, have made Memorial Park one of the best baseball fields in the area.
Prior to the 2009 season, new dugouts and a new backstop were added to Memorial Park.
In 2011, due to high water conditions on Howard Lake, Memorial Park’s outfield was flooded by the lake, which forced the Orphans to move their playoff games to Loretto.
Work has been done to fix the outfield, as it was damaged due to the flooding by the lake.
Getting Memorial Park back to great condition is big for the Orphans, as they will be one of three teams to host the 2013 amateur state tournament.
Delano and Maple Lake will be the main hosts of the state tournament, but some first round games could be played in Howard Lake, along with additional games, if needed, due to rain.
The final schedule for the 2013 state tournament won’t be announced until just prior to the tournament, itself, which will start in the middle of August.
Additional improvements continue to be done at Memorial Park prior to the 2013 state tournament.