Small town kids, big league dreams
Not many small towns in America can boast of having three former high school teammates all playing professional baseball.
But River Falls can. And the town celebrated in style Saturday night by honoring former Wildcats Marty Herum, J.P. Feyereisen and Alex Call before the trio heads south to their respective spring training camps later this month.
"This is awesome," Herum, a minor leaguer in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization said as he looked out at the packed house at Junior's Bar and Grill Saturday night. "The support we have is eye-opening. It's just incredible how you look around and the people you see and the people you haven't seen in awhile and they're all here. It's incredible."
Herum, Feyereisen and Call were teammates on the 2010 Wildcat baseball team that knocked off three conference champions in the postseason before falling to a fourth conference champ with a trip to state on the line. Since then, the Cats have reached the regional championship game or beyond every year, including the program's first state tournament appearance in 39 years in 2015.
Herum went on to be a two-time WIAC Player of the Year at UW-Stevens Point before signing a free agent contract with the Diamondbacks in 2013. Feyereisen was the WIAC Pitcher of the Year at UW-Stevens Point in 2013 and a Northwoods League All-Star before being drafted in the 16th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2014. Call, a freshman on that 2010 Wildcat team, grew into an All-American outfielder at Division I Ball State University and was a third-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox this past June.
The trio started their Saturday night party by hanging out with nearly 100 youth baseball players at the Field of Dreams Batting Cages a few blocks north of Junior's Bar and Grill. After playing everything from checkers to Wii baseball with the youngsters, the entire group, along with members of the current high school team, marched down Main Street to Junior's Bar and Grill, where they were greeted by a standing-room only crowd of friends, family, former teammates and old-fashioned baseball fans.
Call said he was humbled by the support the three have received from their hometown.
"It's unbelievable when you have a community like we have," he said. "What a blessing it is. To have the support; I feel it, Marty feels it and J.P. feels it, and I just can't say enough about tonight."
He said hanging out with all the kids before marching to Junior's Bar and Grill was a blast.
"It was great to walk over with them, and just to play with them," he said. "We had a ball. I guess they look up to us, and it's cool to say that. And to be where they are now, I just hope they can take something from it and know that they can do whatever they want."
Feyereisen credited the trio's former coach, Ryan Bishop, with putting the night together.
"Tonight is amazing. We have to thank coach Bishop for setting it up," he said. "I can't say enough about him and what he's done. He's like a second father to me, and just everyone coming out here for us, this is unbelievable."
Feyereisen was one of four players traded by the Indians to the New York Yankees last summer for all-star reliever Andrew Miller. Miller helped the Indians reach the World Series while Feyereisen starred with the Yankees Class AA affiliate Trenton Thunder before joining a handful of Yankee prospects in the Arizona Fall League. He has received an invite to the Yankees Major League camp this spring, and will report to the team's facility in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 12.
"I'm more than excited," he said about his chance to compete for an opening day roster spot. "I can't wait. It was a short offseason but I can't wait to get down there."
Herum, a two-time midseason all-star with the Diamondbacks High A team, received a surprise video message from his manager, JR House, at Saturday night's send-off. House will manage the Diamondbacks AA team this year, and told the crowd at Junior's Bar and Grill he had big plans for Herum.
"I'm looking forward to it," Herum said about spring training. "It will be nice to get going again. I have about 10 days left and it will be nice to get down there and start playing ball again."
Call, who batted .308 in 73 games with the White Sox's rookie and Class A teams after being drafted last June, said he's been training hard for his first full season of pro ball.
"The training keeps going, but to play ball is the key," he said. "It will be my first full season so I'm excited about it. I know it will be challenging, but I'll do the best I can."
All three can be sure that River Falls will be rooting for them.