By Tyler Ohmann
Two area amateur baseball pillars are being recognized on a bigger stage.
Paul Froncak and Butch Hennes have been around the amateur baseball game in the Morrison County area for decades, but they will honored statewide Sept. 19 as they become members of the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.
When Froncak found out the news, he was on a two-week road trip to, no surprise, a bunch of Major League Baseball games.
“It shocked the hell out of me, and I certainly didn’t expect it,” Froncak said. “It is not why people are into this.”
Hennes found out from his son, Aaron, who came in person to tell his dad after he found out.
“It was a surprise, and I never dreamt about it,” Hennes said.
Hennes, a former Sobieski Ski, watched his son and the Skis win the state Class C title last season.
“That was the biggest thrill I ever had was watching the Skis win it,” Hennes said.
Froncak was there too, calling the games on the radio for KLTF.
Both Froncak and Hennes got their starts in baseball early.
“I grew up in Harding, and that was what we did, all day, every day,” Froncak said. “There were a bunch of kids, and we played ball, every day.”
He said he started his way up the ladder by chasing foul balls. Later he graduated to bat boy, moved on up to scorekeeper, eventually donning a uniform as a player once he reached his teenage years.
He played for Shady Brook, the Pierz Brewers, Barney’s Bulldogs and eventually coached the Lastrup Spurs and Lakers before hanging up the jersey in 2010.
Hennes played for Swan River before joining the Army, and played one more year after returning in 1963.
Beginning in 1964 though, Hennes became a Ski, and it has been that way ever since.
“I always said once a Ski always a Ski,” Hennes said.
Playing is not the end
After his playing days, Hennes kept very active within the Skis organization.
He has taken tickets, helped keep the field in top shape, run the concession stand and sat on various boards for the past 30-some years.
“I don’t plan on quitting,” Hennes said.
Froncak has been a Victory League officer since 1982, when he picked up the office of secretary/treasurer.
He was secretary for 16 years, and is still the league’s treasurer.
In 1996 he earned another title, when he became the Region 8C commissioner.
A couple years ago he even became the voice of central Minnesota baseball, as he took on a job to broadcast the Game of the Week for KLTF.
All of this involvement Froncak says made him a popular guy.
“I made so many friends through baseball, we’re all baseball freaks,” Froncak said. “You go to a ballpark, and no matter where you run into people you know.”
The pair both agree on having a love for the game of baseball.
“There is a lot of interest for the game, people are cool and it is just a great game,” Froncak said.