In typical Mary Holmberg fashion, she acknowledged the name of main field at the new Morris softball complex in a humble yet appreciative manner. The name of the field will be Holmberg Field after the person who started the softball program at Morris Area Schools 41 years ago and continues to be the coach of the Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tiger.
The nomination of Holmberg for the name of the field was made by an anonymous and generous donor. In making the nomination they stated:
“Mary has coached softball for 40 plus years and has been the inspiration for several young women on and off the field. If you read the comments from her Facebook page, you can tell how loved she is by former players, parents, coaches, etc. She has dedicated a lot of time in building a successful and engaging softball program in the Morris area and that is why she is so deserving. She does all of this not for the fame, accolades or money, but because she believes in these players and has a passion for their success and a true love for the game!”
Holmberg started teaching Special Education and Drivers Education at the Morris School in 1977. In 1980, opportunities were opening up for female students in sports so she proposed starting a softball program. She consulted Truman Carlson, the Athletic Director, and he approached the school board. It was approved and Holmberg agreed to be the coach. Little did she know at the time but she would continue to coach the program for many years after.
Holmberg vividly remembers the teams first game played on a field just off Hwy 28 in Villard. They won that game by only one point, 18-17. That same year, the team won the sub-section but lost to Wadena in a bid to go to state. She remembers being so nervous at the first subsection game against Cyrus in Beardsley that she watched from inside the bus. She still gets nervous before every game.
The successful program continued on a winning streak in the 80s and 90s. Their first state appearance was in 1982. This was followed by state trips in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1996. They took third place in 1982 and 1992 and second place in 1989 with a tough loss to St. Bernards.
An elementary softball program was also started in the 80s with many cooperative businesses willing to sponsor the girls program. Today that program has grown to over 113 participants and is operated through Community Education. Holmberg also helps coach some Junior High and high school softball in the summer months.
She stated that she has had some wonderful assistant coaches over the years including George Graff, Janelle Bright, Sharon Martin, UMM practicum student Ms. Larson and Mary Asche. Some of these people also coach at the junior high level. Through her 46 years of coaching, she has built up a total of 586 wins and 257 losses ranking her fourth on the list of Minnesota Coaches for all-time records.
“The new complex is a dream come true,” stated Holmberg. “I am tickled pink with the fundraising efforts and very surprised by the naming. It is very humbling when you see your name on top of a scoreboard”
The new complex is a combined effort of the Morris Area Schools, University of Minnesota Morris and City of Morris. Each entity has contributed to the project and conducted fundraising efforts. The field will include three fields in a pie shape that have wonderful large dugouts, batting cages and bullpens. In the center of the fields will be a building holding a concession stand, press box and restrooms.
A large parking area will utilize the fourth quarter of the area. Lights for the main field were donated by Pederson Funeral home and lights are also planned for the other fields. There is still about $550,000 left to be raised in order to complete the project. It is hoped that some subsection playoff games could be held there in the future.
The University softball team will be using the field from February until mid- May. The High school team will use it from April through the beginning of June. Summer programs will be using it throughout the summer months. There will be a great deal of planning and coordinating but it should work out good for all teams involved.
“In a most fitting and deserving tribute to our colleague, Mary Holmberg, the new softball field has been named Holmberg Field,” stated Superintendent Troy Ferguson. “We applaud the decision to name the field in honor of Mary, who has dedicated her life to making a difference in kids’ lives by teaching, coaching, and encouraging them to do their very best and give their all each and every day.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the field will take place during a softball game on May 7. The junior varsity high school team will be playing there starting at 4 p.m. followed by varsity. The ceremony will take place between the two games.
In conclusion Holmberg stated “I am thankful and grateful to the community and generous donors who helped make this complex possible. I have been blessed with a lot of good memories and skilled players who have a passion and love of the game. Those relationships continue to thrive today.”