Cottage Grove hosts record-setting baseball game
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — Sean Hjelle pitched the first inning for his squad Friday morning.
And Sunday night, after 575 runs, 293 innings, more than 12,000 pitches and 63 hours had passed, he recorded the last out on the mound as the Pitching, Hitting and Defense Baseball Club completed the world’s longest baseball game at Park High School.
“We finally did it,” Hjelle said. “I’m so excited. … It’s an unforgettable experience.”
The Arden Hills-based club tried to achieve the goal a year earlier at the Metrodome, but came up about 18 hours short due to a lack of arms available to pitch.
The previous failure made Sunday’s success all the sweeter.
“It made this year a lot sweeter to have the guys stick around and be more committed to the bit,” said Bryan Ludwig, coach of the baseball club. “They worked as hard as they could.”
Hjelle said the guys learned from last year and felt their mindsets were better this time around. He said that was partially because this time the game was played outside, versus being under the big, white, now deflated bubble in Minneapolis.
The Pitching, Hitting and Defense Baseball Club also had the benefit of more bodies at its disposal. Each squad had 28 players to utilize, meaning each player was responsible to play about a third of each day. When they weren’t on the field, the players spent much of their time in the Cottage Grove Ice Arena.
Still, the days grew long. For Hjelle, his 10 p.m.-1 a.m. shift Friday night was tough to truck through.
“It was tough,” he said. “My legs haven’t quite recovered from that.”
But brief moments of hilarity were always there to pick the guys back up. For Ludwig, the best moment came at 6 a.m. Sunday.
“We were playing ball and guys were playing slow as we were coming out of a long night,” he said. “We had a strike three where a guy took a pretty bad swing and he swung through it pretty good.”
And as soon as the strikeout occurred, “Can’t Touch This,” by MC Hammer came blaring out of the speakers.
“It was hilarious,” Ludwig said.
Overall, Ludwig said he thought the guys did a nice job conserving energy throughout the weekend. That allowed the players to ramp up their intensity as the hours counted down toward the record.
“We spent 60 hours just trying to get through it,” he said. “Then, right at the end, it was ‘let’s go.’ We were going to bring the adrenaline up. Guys were throwing hard, we were running hard and guys were hitting the ball hard. It was fun to see.”
Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey threw the ceremonial first pitch to get the action started Friday morning. He was on hand again Sunday night to see the record broken and watch Cottage Grove make its way into the record books. He was presented with a bat and ball, which he had the players sign — both of which will be displayed at city hall as a memento from the event.
“It’s just so fun,” Bailey said. “It’s another feather in our cap for a great community.”
It was also a feather in the cap of a baseball club that’s only in its fifth year of existence. The record-breaking game could go a long way toward pushing the program to prominence.
“I’m so proud of this organization,” Hjelle said. “Because sometimes we get looked over as an organization. … This is something where this is ours and nobody can take this away from us. This is awesome.”
The record-setting event was charitable, as well.
PHD worked in collaboration with the ALS Association for the event. Proceeds helped fund research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Ludwig said PHD raised funds through T-shirt and concessions, as well as donations. No final number for a donation had been gathered as of Tuesday. People can continue to donate at http://www.phdbaseball.us/wlbg.
“We just wanted to make sure that at the end of the day, the money we did bring in as a result of this event went to ALS research,” Ludwig said. “And I think we’re happy with what we have.”
The action didn’t come to a halt the second the record was broken. The players continued on to play a few more innings as the game eclipsed the 63 hour mark before the game was finally called and the hugs and handshakes commenced.
Hjelle said he was feeling so good that he could have continued to play through the night Sunday. Though once the game ended, he was fine with heading home.
“I will be in my basement for awhile after this,” he said. “If you want to see me, you’ll have to come over to my house.”