MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Two local baseball coaches with plenty of history crossed paths earlier this year.
Mankato Loyola baseball head coach Jeff Reese is a mainstay in the dugout
For decades, the legendary skipper coached at New Richland Hartland Ellendale Geneva before taking some years off, only to return to the game as coach of the Crusaders where he’s now in season number five.
“I always said that baseball, you get addicted to it. I know my sun is setting a little bit, but I still enjoy coaching,” said Reese.
In all those years of experience, a number of former players are now coaching themselves.
That includes Mark Lee, who’s making his debut as head coach of the NRHEG baseball team in 2021.
“He believed in me when I was younger, and that’s what made me love the game more,” said Lee.
Lee played for Reese in the 1990s, and his first game calling the shots for NRHEG came against the former coach to open the season in a competitive but friendly duel between the Panthers and Crusaders.
“I tell you what. It’s important to get wins, but it’s those players that come back and stop by to visit. In the case of Mark, he took over at NRHEG. It really humbles you, he’s only got what, 39 years to catch up now,” said Reese.
The teacher earned bragging rights in the first meeting between the former player and coach after a 16-13 victory in a shootout, but Reese is certain Lee will pick up plenty of W’s as a coach with the same spirit he used to play with.
“He’s just hard-driven. I take a hundred thousand of these guys compared to these good athletes. He was a good athlete, but he had that drive, that’s one thing I noticed,” said Reese.
Even though the two wear different uniforms now, conversations over the game of baseball will never get old.
“They did take advantage of some mistakes tonight. That’s always what I was taught from this guy,” said Lee.
“Your outfielders made some nice plays out there with all that speed,” said Reese.
“Yeah, that makes it easier for me with all that speed,” said Lee.