2016 CLASS A HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
AUGUST 21, 2016
--capsules submitted by Larry Gallagher
Editor's note: This year's Class A Hall of Fame class will be inducted in a ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 21, before the Class A championship game at Bloomington's Red Haddox Field, at approximately 12:15 pm.
Joe Paatalo was known as one of the most prolific hitters in Minnesota amateur baseball. When asked about his nearly 10 straight seasons of over 100 hits for the East Side Merchants, he laughed. “I think that has more to do with the sheer number of games I played. I love the game of baseball, and the love for the game was nurtured from the likes of Mike Meyers, Dennis Denning and Tim Kiemel. I owe so much to them as the type of ballplayer I was, but more importantly the type of person I am today. I am also grateful to have played with the likes of Mike Vogel, Mike Walseth, Joe Ross and Tony Gagliardi, all great players and truly great guys." Joe ended his playing days with the Fighting Fish of River Falls, helping them win the 2012 Wisconsin state championship. "This induction is quite an honor, but it's really about the guys I played with. That was always the greatest joy."
Pat Fix was a model of consistency for 26 town ball seasons. After playing one year with the East Side Merchants, he became a charter member of the newly-formed Saint Louis Park town team and would go on to play the next 25 seasons on that squad. Pat was a huge part of that team’s success. As a member of the Park team, Pat competed in 19 Class A state tournaments and was an integral part of both state championship teams in 2002 and 2008. Anchoring the middle infield and hitting third in a potent lineup, Pat was a regular on the All-Tournament team and the All-Star team. Pat played the first 10 years of his career when the league used aluminum bats, where he averaged 70 hits a season. He added another 662 hits and a .326 batting average with a wood bat, giving him right around 1300 hits in his career. Pat is a member of the Saint Louis Park All-1990’s and All-2000’s teams.
Jack Peterson was a player and manager for 30 years in the Minneapolis Park National League with the Columbia Heights/Dick’s Place Team. Jack was a perennial .350+ hitter every year he played and his teams won seven state championships as both a player and manager. Jack took over for Gary Demars when he stepped down as manager. Jack’s tenure lasted from 1967 through 1996, when Jack suffered a career-ending injury when a basketball backboard fell. He broke his right wrist, nose and suffered three herniated discs in his neck. No-one else was willing to take over the team and therefore, the team folded. Jack was also a versatile player as he played all positions but shortstop and catcher. Jack as a pitcher had a variety of ways to get hitters out. His pitching record for his time on the mound was 45-3.
Larry Norder was more than just the sponsor of Air Freight Unlimited baseball. Larry was the team’s biggest fan. He looked forward to every game and would always be on the bench cheering on the team. He wanted to make sure that after every game, win or lose, every player would go home happy and had enough food and drinks before they left. He would also make sure to invite each player’s family – and even the opposing teams – over for the postgame get-togethers. Air Freight Unlimited baseball misses him at every game and now honors him with his signature on their hats and jerseys.
Nick Bjerken (LHP/1B/OF), a native of South Saint Paul, played for his hometown team Stockmen’s Irish of the St. Paul and Skyline Leagues for 16 years (1998-2013). During that time, he helped lead the Irish to 391 wins, 13 state tournaments, a runner-up finish in 2003 and a State Championship in 2011. Nick played his college baseball at the College of St. Scholastica, where he was an All-American and is a member of their baseball Hall of Fame. As a dual threat for the Irish, Nick was able to compile over 100 wins on the mound and over 100 home runs with a .386 career average, making him one of the best two-way players in Irish and Class A history.