Hayfield’s Mr. Baseball

Published 9:35 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kasey Krekling was just playing baseball for Hayfield five years ago and now he’s set to begin his first year as Vikings head baseball coach. -- Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

HAYFIELD — If Hayfield was to name anyone Mr. Baseball in their town, it would pretty much have to be Kasey Krekling.

Krekling started the town’s amateur baseball team, the Hayfield Heat, two years ago, he’s helping run the Hayfield summer recreation program, and he will take his role in town one step further when he begins his first year as the Vikings’ head baseball coach this spring.

“I’m excited. It’s my first year back in the school district and it’s really fun and interesting,” Krekling said.

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Krekling graduated from Hayfield High School in 2007 and he spent four years pitching at Waldorf College before returning to his hometown.

While playing for the Vikings, Krekling, who is also an elementary school teacher at Brownsdale, was the team’s ace his in his junior and senior years and a lot of people in town still remember him in that role.

“It’s hard for some of (the players) to think of me as coach Kasey,” Krekling said. “Some of them still call me just Kasey. I was around with a lot of camps when I was in high school and college and it’s hard for them to call me Mr. Krekling. Now they’re used to it and they’ll take me serious.”

While his players may be used to him as their head coach, some of Hayfield’s opposing coaches may take a little longer to swallow that fact when they see a pitcher they used to coach against in Hayfield’s dugout once again.

Krekling said that leading the Hayfield Heat to the Class ‘C’ amateur baseball tournament this past summer helped earn him some respect already.

“I’ve talked to a couple of coaches and they’re kind of surprised (that I’m taking over),” Krekling said. “But they know how serious I am and they’ve seen what I’ve done with the Hayfield Heat.“

Krekling takes over a team that was on the verge of Hayfield’s first state berth last season, but the Vikings lost a state qualifying game to Wabasha-Kellogg. Kasey’s young brother Tyler, who now plays for Riverland, was on that team, but he and a bulk of that squad graduated.

This year’s squad is expected to have just two upperclassmen as Krekling will have to virtually start from scratch.

“We’re going to be young and it’ll be a work in progress,” Krekling said. “We’ll have growing pains and we’ll take our lumps this year, but it’ll make us better for playoffs and hopefully we’ll hit our stride then and maybe surprise a few teams. We’ll be better than what our record is.”

Krekling, who picked up his love of baseball at an early age from his dad, believes in playing small ball.

“You love those innings where you string a lot of hits together, but you’re not going to get a lot of those,” Krekling said.

While Krekling’s first goal is to get a solid team in place, his long terms goals are bigger. Quite frankly, he’d like to get the Vikings to their first state tournament in school history, especially after he came up short a couple of times in his own high school baseball career.

“It only took two years to get the Heat to state,” Krekling said. “ I’d love for it to take two years to get the high school team to state, but that’s never happened. One of my goals is to get a team to win a section title and go to state for the first time.”

Krekling knows Hayfield has a reputation for basketball, and he serves as the girls assistant basketball coach during the winter. But he hopes that he can coach a team that draws some pretty big crowds during the playoffs.

Until then, he’s just ready to start his high school head coaching career.

“It doesn’t feel like my first year because I know the town so well and people treat me with respect. They know who I am, they know what I bring and they know how much I love this town and all of the sports,” Krekling said. “I’ll start with kids playing t-ball and they’ll end with me playing on the amateur field. It’ll be fun.”

Hayfield will open its season March 3 at Pine Island and its home opener is April 5 against Goodhue.