By Barbie Porter
The Lady Hornet softball program has grown into a conference contender that sees strong participation numbers year-after-year. While some may find it hard to believe, the girls sport didn’t come to Frazee until the mid 1980s.
Dave Ferguson was one of the men who helped provide the opportunity for the female athletes of the Frazee-Vergas School District.
The native of North Dakota found himself in Frazee after being hired as a math teacher in 1969. He noted the job was his first out of teacher’s school, and he enjoyed his time with the district and in the community so much there was never a reason to think greener pastures could be waiting elsewhere.
“I made a career out of it,” he said. “I was there 32 years.”
During the 1960s and into the 1980s, men’s fast pitch softball was a popular sport. Ferguson was an avid player
He explained softball and baseball have many similarities as far as how runs are scored and players sent back to the bench without earning runs for the team. The pitch speeds are similar, too.
“The softball pitcher’s mound is closer to the plate so the ball has the same speed as a baseball when it reaches the plate,” he said. “However, the softball can rise up and have a spin on it that would be just about impossible with a baseball because of the way they are thrown.”
With athletic skills required and the sport’s popularity growing in the region at the high school level, Ferguson and a fellow teacher, Leon Beyer, decided to start a team for the Lady Hornets.
“I believe it was 1984 or 1985,” he said. “Other schools in the area were starting up teams and some colleges. I thought it would be a good thing to do.”
The athletic director at the time took care of the paperwork to make the sport official at the state high school league’s office, and Ferguson posted a notice that a team was forming on a bulletin board.
“There were 30-to-40 that signed up,” he said, adding the popularity of the sport was high and so the interest didn’t surprise him. “A lot had played slow pitch or in other softball leagues, so some came in with some experience.”
The program started with varsity and junior high teams. He noted, as far as he recalls, there was not a junior varsity team to start.
As the sport progressed, Ferguson said the fast pitching improved and the players became more knowledgeable of how to react to certain situations on the field.
“The game got better, and not as long,” he said. “Now, games average 45 minutes to an hour. Back then we’d have games go 11/2-to-2 hours.” As far as equipment, that has remained consistent with the exception of infielders wearing masks.
“We didn’t have those back then,” he said. “It is a good choice though. There were a few girls that were hit in the face. It was nothing serious, but it is good to have that protection.”
During the nine years Ferguson was head coach he can’t recall one team season record. He noted those numbers never mattered much too him.
When Ferguson was called by the current head coach Matt Bauer to throw a first pitch at a home game, he was honored.
The 77-year-old hung up his cleats in 1957, but the rural Frazee resident still has a love for the game, and is glad to see the tradition of fun and athletics carries on in Hornet country.