Baseball was in Jake Steinbach’s blood from a young age.
The Wayzata High School junior remembers hitting tennis balls off the baggy at the Metrodome while he waited for his father, former Minnesota Twins catcher Terry Steinbach, to clean up after home games. He remembers the road trips, and he certainly remembers meeting the players and feeling comfortable around even the biggest of stars.
“I didn’t think of them as baseball players,” Jake Steinbach said. “I just thought of them as older guys hanging around with my dad.”
Now father and son are on the same team and are preparing for the 2011 season. The elder Steinbach is an assistant coach for Wayzata, which also features two sons and two grandsons of former major leaguers.
Along with Jake Steinbach, former Twins third baseman Scott Leius’ son, freshman Mickey Leius, is in the running for the Trojans’ shortstop position. Two of former New York Yankees outfielder and catcher Johnny Blanchard’s grandsons, senior Maris and sophomore Matt, are also on the roster.
Through three surnames linked to October immortality, the Trojans' current roster has ties to four World Series rings.
“It’s a lot of expectations for a team with World Series sons coming up. ... I’d say it’s unbelievable,” sophomore Matt Blanchard said. “It’s pretty memorable.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Terry Steinbach won the 1989 World Series as a catcher for the Oakland A’s. He stayed with the A’s until 1996 before joining the Twins for his final three Major League seasons.
Scott Leius helped Minnesota win the 1991 World Series, and Johnny Blanchard was on the 1961 and 1962 New York championship teams.
Head coach Bobby DeWitt said preparation is a common link among former major leaguers’ offspring. The kids, having been around the game for so long, have an understanding of how the game is played.
“Their parents and their families have built them up from the beginning to be fundamentally solid in the physical part of the game,” DeWitt said. “They’re also working hard on that mental side. These kids don’t get on that roller coaster of emotion. They’re pretty steady throughout.”
It happens in different ways.
For Matt Blanchard, his grandfather was two generations removed from his playing days before he was born. Still, the stories and the feelings evoked from playing in baseball’s golden age helped form Matt’s love of the game.
“He was the captain of my life,” Matt said of his grandfather. “I looked up to, trying to be like him—always listening to what he tells me.”
Jake Steinbach said he felt the freedom to play any sport he wanted. There were never pressures to play baseball because his father did.
Still, Jake gravitated toward the game, picking up bits and pieces of his dad’s work ethic and preparation during his youth.
“The only thing I really could take away from it was they work hard every day,” Jake Steinbach said. “Seeing that over a couple years, you understand what it takes to be a professional ball player.”
“Whether they want to or not, they have instincts,” Terry Steinbach said of baseball families. “It’s like default, it’s like osmosis.”
COACHING THE KIDS
Terry Steinbach began coaching with DeWitt four years ago while his older son, Lucas, was on the team. He said it was a natural fit to give back some of the knowledge he picked up playing the game.
“My wife and I would be there watching them anyway—wherever they go, we’ll be watching them play,” Terry Steinbach said. “So for me, I’m going to be there anyway, why not be on the field? It’s something I really enjoy, it’s fun to give some of this stuff back. It’s fun to hear some of the stuff they come up with, the quirks.”
DeWitt said the team gets an added bonus with Steinbach as an assistant coach. He said Steinbach helps with the fundamental parts of the game and can add examples from his career to drive home points.
“The kids really lock in when he talks,” DeWitt said. “They understand that everything they want to do, he’s done it. They can kind of follow his lead, and if they want to get to a certain level he’s the guy who can explain how to get there.”
Steinbach said his main focus is making sure the kids bring the necessary hustle, desire and effort to the baseball field. Still, he said it’s not all about teaching the players.
The players are teaching him, too.
“When I first got here it was try to make everyone a collegiate ballplayer or a pro ballplayer,” Steinbach said. “You find out there are different reasons why kids are here. There are different levels of enjoyment. I’m learning that there’s nothing wrong with the kids having a nice solid high school career, and they’re going to do the best they can at that.”
A UNIQUE ROSTER
DeWitt said Scott Leius comes to practice occasionally to work with the infielders, just another perk the Trojans enjoy thanks to their Major League ties.
“There’s really a wealth of knowledge we can rally around and bring in,” DeWitt said.
The players themselves are simply taking it one day at a time. The Trojans have goals of competing in the Lake Conference and potentially making a run to state, so their focus is more on the game.
Still, Matt Blanchard said this team is pretty special.
“It’s a good bonding experience,” he said.
The Trojans hope this talent can translate into memories and success down the road.
“I’m not sure how deep the well goes in terms of our future,” DeWitt said. “But certainly for the next three or four years things are looking great.”