In the Front Row: Nothing fishy about this teamIt’s about time. That’s the comment I hear most often regarding the Fighting Fish — the amateur baseball team currently playing its inaugural season here in River Falls.
By: Bob Burrows, River Falls Journal
It’s about time. That’s the comment I hear most often regarding the Fighting Fish — the amateur baseball team currently playing its inaugural season here in River Falls.
Baseball is as American as hot dogs, apple pie and… well you know the rest. And there’s nothing better than town ball, the unofficial moniker of organizations like the St. Croix Valley Baseball League.
For years teams like the Osceola Braves, which once had a pitcher named Bud Grant (who went on to become a pretty big name in Minnesota football circles, by the way), traveled the countryside taking on teams from other small towns like Elmwood and New Richmond and Bay City. People would set out lawn chairs and relax with a cooler full of their favorite beverage and cheer on the locals.
Things haven’t changed much.
Sunday afternoon, at the Fighting Fish game against the New Richmond Millers, over 150 people turned out to cheer on the newest team in town. Some brought lawn chairs. Most sat in the high school field bleachers. All had fun.
Fighting Fish player-manager Josh Eidem, a former UW-River Falls player (Yes, Virginia, UW-RF actually had a baseball team at one time), knew team members had their work cut out for them after making the move from Spring Valley to River Falls this year. That’s why the team has gone to great lengths to become part of the community.
All of the team’s expenses — from paying umpires to buying uniforms and equipment — comes from sponsors, fundraisers and concessions. The team was greeted enthusiastically by the River Falls business community, with nine different businesses stepping up to help, and it held a series of meat raffles over the winter to help raise money to buy new uniforms.
That’s why Eidem and his teammates feel it’s important to give something back. Every other Monday night this summer, a different Fighting Fish player has visited the River Falls Public Library to read children’s stories to kids age 10 and under as part of the team’s program called “Get Hooked on Reading.”
The team is also hosting a series of promotions at most of its home games. Sunday’s was billed as “Give a Man a Fish Day,” a food drive for the local food pantry. Eidem said the team collected several “big bags” of non-perishable food items as well as $50 in cash for the pantry.
This Sunday, when the Fish take on the Menomonie Eagles, is “Armed Forces Appreciation Day.” The first 25 fans in attendance will receive a free mini American flag and a Fighting Fish window decal.
Eidem said the team appreciates its first season in River Falls.
“As an organization, we feel really good about what’s happening off the field,” he said. “Now it’s time to start taking care of things on the field.”
The team is off to a 10-10 start and is currently tied for fourth place in the North Division of the St. Croix Valley Baseball League with New Richmond. But that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of its new-found fans. Grown-up, well-educated, intelligent men and women have been spotted all over town wearing orange or blue T-shirts with “Go Fish” and a caricature of an angry trout on the front.
Any team that can do that is OK in my book.