Austin residents headed to Minnesota softball Hall of Fame

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ron Bergstrom, left, and Ken Hagen will be inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame Nov. 1. -- Rocky Hulne/

Ron Bergstrom, left, and Ken Hagen will be inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame Nov. 1. — Rocky Hulne/

When Ron Bergstrom started playing fast-pitch softball with Ken Hagen years ago in Austin, Bergstrom was willing to learn whatever he could from the veteran.

Now Bergstrom and Hagen are both headed to the Minnesota Sports Federation softball Hall of Fame at a banquet at the Rochester International Event Center Nov. 1. Former Austin residents Gary Watland and Bruce Blank will also be inducted at the event.

All four of Austin’s Hall of Fame inductees were pitchers and Bergstrom still remembers some of the biggest advice that Hagen gave him.

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“I used to play with Kenny and he taught me a lot about pitching. I’ll never forget chin music,” Bergstrom said. “If you’ve got someone over the plate on you, get them dancing. Under the chin it goes. We maybe took it a little too serious, but that’s how it had to be.”

Both Bergstrom and Hagen pitched their teams to state titles during their playing days. Hagen pitched in four state tournaments and his team won one of them. One of the things he remembers most was when he missed out on a perfect game at the state tournament on a bloop single to right field.

“The right fielder didn’t charge it. I’ll never forget that. We had them beat anyway and it dropped,” Hagen said. “The ultimate goal for me was to get to a state tournament and win one. When our team did that, I figured that was about as good as it would get for me.”

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the fast-pitch men’s softball scene in Austin was booming. There were five city league teams and a group of Church league teams as well. Austin used to host an annual Midwest Invitational tournament that had 64-teams playing on every diamond in town.

“We had good softball in Austin,” Hagen said. “We had a lot of good players. It’s an honor for Ron and I to be going to the Hall of Fame, especially because there are a few Austin guys who went in before us.”

Hagen eventually had to stop playing fast-pitch softball when it became to costly for travel and motel costs and he had two young children.

Bergstrom played for about 25 years and he’s stayed involved in softball by coaching at Riverland Community College.

He said the state tournaments were fun, but what he remembers most is the people he played the games with and against.

“It’s the guys you play with and the friends you make,” Bergstrom said. “The losses, they just fade into the twilight and I don’t remember many of them. I met a lot of great people.”