Hall of Famer returns to coach AHS softball

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Al Eckmann, Austin Packers assistant softball coach, will take over the Riverland Community College as head coach next year.

Al Eckmann, shown here in 2011, is leaving the Riverland Community College softball team to coach the Austin High School team. Herald file photo

Al Eckmann had a record of 222-80 in nine years of coaching the Packers

Al Eckmann is coming back to the Austin Packer softball team.

After coaching the Riverland Community College softball team for the past three seasons, Eckmann will be the Austin softball team’s head coach this spring.

“Al is an icon in softball in the state of Minnesota,” AHS Activities Director Lisa Quednow said. “To provide the opportunity for our student athletes to work with and learn from coach Eckmann will be a great opportunity for them. I am excited to see the growth in our program and our student athletes.”

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Eckmann coached the Packers from 1977 to 1986, where he amassed a record of 222-80. He led Austin to five state tournament appearances, three state championships and seven Big Nine titles.

Eckmann is in the AHS Hall of Fame, the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Eckmann was an assistant coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 2002 to 2005.

He never thought he’d be coming back to coach the Packers, but this summer it all fell into place after former head coach Cindy Owen resigned.

“I didn’t give [coming back] a thought, but it just kind of worked out,” Eckmann said. “I’m really excited about the kids in the program and I’ve got to learn all of the names again.”

Eckmann turned around the RCC softball program quickly as the squad finished second in the Region 13A tournament this past spring. He’ll be taking over an Austin team that went 5-16 overall this past spring.

Eckmann decided to go back to coaching high school softball as the workload was building up with the Blue Devils.

“The college season is too long,” Eckmann said. “You’ve got to start in September and then you start again in January. You also have to raise [funds] each year to take the team to Florida. That kind of stuff takes a toll on you.”

Eckmann didn’t watch the Packers much this past spring because their games coincided with RCC’s contests, but he has kept track of the Austin 16U squad this summer.

“It looks to me like there is some pretty good talent there. It should be a lot of fun,” Eckmann said. “As I watched them play this summer, they looked like they had a lot of speed. We might have to play some small ball.”