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Baseball: 'Fro lifts spirits in Wingers' clubhouse

Red Wing shortstop Zach Harding found a leftover afro wig in his locker at the Wingers' clubhouse. Since the discovery, the team has given the fake piece of hair to its player of the game. (Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia)

Getting called player of the game in the dugout isn’t quite enough for the Red Wing baseball team.

If a player has an outstanding performance on the diamond, the player of the game is coronated. Not with a crown, though. Instead, an aged fake afro found at the bottom of Zach Harding’s locker.

“We had 70s night with the Aces probably 10 years ago. Someone brought a wig and it’s been sitting in the team room ever since,” said Red Wing head coach Paul Hartmann.

The afro has seen better days, with its appearance looking more like steel wool rather than luxurious hair. But Harding saw an opportunity to add some fun in the clubhouse.

“This year we decided to break it out for player of the game and it’s been a great tradition,” the Wingers’ shortstop said. “It’s been awesome so far. It goes to whoever deserves it the most. People who have deserved it have owned it and it’s been some awesome video so far.”

When someone is picked as the player of the game, the team has made it an effort to put it on Red Wing baseball’s Twitter page (@WingerBaseball). And with the team sporting a 15-7 record and the top seed in the Section 1AAA tournament, the afro has been even more cause for celebration.

“In various baseball films and other clubhouses, there’s a lot of different things that go on to enjoy the moment,” Hartmann said. “The Twins had the dance party a couple years ago, and our guys have their own version of the dance party after a big win. As coaches, we try to stay out of the locker room for that.

“As a coach, you really see the trust that happens in the team room and how that parlays itself on the field is a lot of fun to see.”

The afro has also been a way to recognize players who sometimes don’t get the publicity.

“Teddy Lillico got it after one of our games for catching back-to-back shutouts, and sometimes you forget about the catcher in those circumstances,” Hartmann said. “One game against Winona, we wanted to give it to Mother Nature and pile it up with hail. We forgot to put that one on Twitter. … As a coach, you sit back and enjoy watching kids be kids and taking it all in.”

Harding added, “We gave it to Dan Rolen one game, and I think we gave it to Dan because he’s been there all year and he’s been a great supporter for us.”

A matted clump of hair has made things light around the Red Wing clubhouse. And if things go according to plan, the ‘fro will make it all the way to St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Hopefully that thing makes it to Target Field. That would be fun,” Harding said. “Hopefully we can get some air time with the thing.”

Section 1AAA playoffs

1:30 p.m. today at Red Wing Athletic Field

1-Red Wing vs. 2-Northfield

Record

Red Wing 15-7; Northfield 14-8

Previous meeting

Red Wing 10, Northfield 1 on May 13 (at Dundas)

Runs/game

Red Wing-5.6; Northfield-5.7

Runs against/game

Red Wing-3.2; Northfield-4.6

If Red Wing wins…

Section 1AAA championship, 5 p.m. on June 6 at the Ath

If Red Wing loses…

Section 1AAA elimination game, 4 p.m. today at the Ath vs. Albert Lea/Austin winner

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

(651) 301-7878
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