By James Howell
Shortly before taking on rival Loretto, Mark Forsman is visibly antsy. “Where’s the oil funnel?” he shouts from the Saints Field equipment shed. “I’ve been looking for 10 minutes!” Forsman has learned throughout his years that being the manager of an amateur team is a lot more than filling out the lineup card and giving signs. For his efforts over the years, he will be honored by being inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in September.
“I was the only one stupid enough to take this job,” Forsman reflects with a laugh. Having taken over in 1983 at the ripe age of 19, Forsman has been in the dugout for over 550 wins, a number that he quickly attempts to downplay, “That stuff really isn’t that important to me.” Personal accolades don’t mean much to Forsman because he realizes that while it will be his name on the plaque, there are many who helped to get it there. “When you think about all the people that have helped you throughout the years, it is very humbling because not everyone gets recognized for their efforts.” Forsman is quick to point out that his family has been instrumental in letting him be the manager for all these years. His wife Shari and now adult children Kayla Jo and Karsen have been a big support to him. “I know the sacrifices my family has made for this. It is very humbling when someone accepts your dream and allows you to do it.”
When Forsman took over in 1983, Saints Field wasn’t the field it is today. League secretary Brian Larson wrote in his book Over 100 Years of Dassel Baseball, Saints Field has gone from being “one of the poorest playing fields in the area, to one of the best.” This wouldn’t have been possible without the direction of Mark Forsman, who spearheaded many of the projects that have made Saints Field what it is today. Forsman sees the improvements as one of the most special achievements of his career with the Saints. “To see a community come together and build a facility and to host the state amateur tournament, that’s been one of the best things.” The 2005 tournament hosted by Dassel necessitated the building of a grandstand and maintenance shed. Dassel will once again have the chance to show off the beautiful ballpark in 2016 when the tournament returns to Saints Field. Improvements this time around will include new bleachers along the 3rd base line and leveling the playing surface among other tasks.
Despite leading the renovations and managing the team, Forsman also had a successful career as a player. His career average was above .300, and for most of his career he played second base, although he did spend a considerable amount of time at third base. Forsman looked back at his time as being a player manager: “It’s harder to be the player manager because I had a hard time writing my name in the book and still trying to manage the team.” Forsman struggled with this dilemma so much that he asked Joe Harmala, a fellow member of Forsman in the state hall of fame, to return to the Saints to manage. “That was good because it allowed me to return to playing more.”
With Forsman back at the helm, the Saints made a deep run in the 1993 state tournament. This tournament run produced two of the most memorable games of Forsman’s time with the Saints. The Saints edged rival Watkins in the semifinals, a game Forsman recalls fondly. “The game was tied 3-3 in the eighth and I put the squeeze on. Dale Grochow bunted a ball that was over his head and that scored the go-ahead run.” The win put the Saints in the state finals against Granite Falls. Ahead 4-3 in the 9th with 2 outs and 2 strikes, the Saints fell apart. Granite Falls scored 5 times, eventually winning 8-5. “I would give up anything to have that state championship,” Forsman laments, “It kept me hungry to keep doing it, but in the same sense it was deflating. “
With many state tournament appearances and only four losing seasons, Forsman credits pitching with the long term success. “The key to staying above .500 is to have strong pitching. It also helps to have quality kids in the program that understand the game.” The Saints have also been fortunate enough to have a lot of great players, something Forsman knows well. “Good players make managing easy,” Forsman stated bluntly. One of the best players from Forsman’s time with the Saints was John Riewer. He talked about Forsman and his time with the Saints glowingly: “Mark was a great friend, teammate, manager, and promoter of baseball locally and throughout the state…He has dedicated his life to baseball and the community.”
This is the second hall of fame into which Forsman will be inducted. In 2010, Forsman earned the honor of being inducted into the North Star League Hall of Fame, along with fellow managers John Timpe, Herb Koch, and Mike Gagnon. “Not only did I coach against those guys, I played against them too. It’s an honor to go in with guys you respect. “
Forsman will join Brian Larson and Joe Harmala as Saints personnel in the state hall of fame. He will be inducted September 20th at the annual event to take place at the St. Cloud Convention Center.
While every inductee gives a speech, Forsman is already dreading it: “I really don’t want to give a speech” Forsman admits. He shouldn’t have anything to worry about; his career speaks for itself.