During many spring and summer days and nights, Jeff Wollin can be found at a baseball field. Whether it’s grooming the field itself or the skills of the players on it, he has dedicated more than 30 years to coaching the game he loves. Now, the game is dedicating an honor to him.
On Friday, Aug. 23, Wollin will once again be found at a ball field. This time, though, the lights will be a a little bit brighter. He and seven others will honored at Target Field as part of a pregame ceremony before a Minnesota Twins game honoring the 2019 Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame class.
“I was kind of shocked, because normally you think of (the Hall of Fame) being for retired guys or something that happens when you’re done coaching,” Wollin said. “It was a very nice surprise and something you don’t normally think about. I wasn’t really thinking about it. I know some of the names of guys who are already in there, and a lot of them are legends of high school coaching.”
Wollin said he found out he was being inducted back in early spring with a letter in the mail. Even with the hard copy proof in-hand, he wasn’t convinced he was its intended recipient.
“I had to kind of think, ‘Really? Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?’” he said. “I don’t know how that came about (but) … it’s nice to be recognized by your peers.”
With him as head coach of the Litchfield Dragons for 30 years, Wollin’s teams have won 368 games, including three conference championships, five sub-section championships, and four section runners-up. Overall, his record is 377-318 in 32 years as a head coach, which is tied for 30th on the all-time wins list in the state, according to the MSHSBCA website.
He has also coached the Litchfield VFW baseball team for 28 years, winning more than 400 games and qualifying for two state tournaments.
Wollin has also been director of the Litchfield Community Education baseball program and a Litchfield Baseball Association board member for 30 years. He also played 30 years of amateur baseball, including 17 with the Blues, and is a member of the Litchfield Baseball Hall of Fame.
Despite the accolades and decades working with the game, receiving a letter informing him that he’d made the Hall of Fame wasn’t really on his mind as he walked to his mailbox.
“I really hadn’t thought about it,” Wollin said. “I could see maybe once I was done … I don’t know, it just seemed like not anything that was on my radar.”
He and the others in his Hall of Fame class will receive a plaque and the thanks of a stadium full of fans prior to the Twins playing the White Sox next Friday. Wollin said that it’s the first time that the coaches’ Hall of Fame class will be honored at Target Field. They will officially enter the Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Minneapolis.
Though the summer baseball season has ended and the high school season is almost eight months away, the itch to return to the field and continue coaching doesn’t go away. When the time comes and Wollin begins coaching baseball practices again in the spring, he will do so for the first time as a Hall of Fame coach.
“I suppose I’ve had my hands in it for quite a while,” he said. “I try to always do things right and have been fairly competitive over the years. So there you go, that’s all it takes. Thirty years of living the game of baseball.”