Baseball: Pioneers have former Milwaukee Brewer on roster as they start ’13 season

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

A pitcher who was briefly a major-leaguer will be the likely starter today as the Elk River Pioneers opens the 2013 season at Mora.

Ben Hendrickson is one of several new faces on the local town team, which hopes to move up a few more notches after finishing 9-15 last year and 4-19 the year before.

Ben Hendrickson
Ben Hendrickson

“He had some arm trouble and got released, a few years ago,” said Pioneer manager Ken Ott about the 6-foot-4 right-hander who now lives in Maple Grove. “He’s been looking pretty good in practice.”

Ott said multiple pitchers will see action.

Hendrickson pitched in the Brewers chain from 1999 through 2006, then passed through the Royals, Rays and Twins organizations until his release from the Twins in 2009.

Hendrickson was a big-leaguer in 2004 season with a 1-8 record and 6.22 ERA for the Brewers after starring with Indianapolis earlier that year (11-3, 2.02 ERA) to get the International League MVP award.

He had two more big league starts in 2006, both of them bad (the Twins roughed him up in one of them) before being sent back to the minors, never to return to the bigs.

Ott said that Henrickson and his dad, after golfing at Elk River Golf Club last year, stopped at Hales Field when they saw a town team game going on. That’s when the former pro pitcher met Ott, who invited him to suit up in 2013.

Good team on paper

Ott thinks he’s got the makings of a good squad.

“On paper, it’s a good team,” he said. “We’ve just got to get it done on the field.”

The mound staff includes Aaron Pipenhagen, the mainstay last year (he was named top pitcher in the North Star League’s North Division), along with Josh Juntenen, Jim Brown, and Tucker Morrell.

Also back from last year are Lance Johnson, Cory Kaminsky, Kam Crandall, Ryan Holmgren, and Harley Thompson.

Among the new faces is local teacher Brien Geerdes, who played with Minneapolis Angels previously and will likely be the main catcher. Other newcomers are Sam Krick, Joe Santiago, Corey Collins, and Jake Snyder.

Ott also hopes to get a few games from four current Elks who’ll also play Legion ball: Brandon Meyer, Terry Hadden, Brady Gvens and Porter Morrell.

The coaching staff includes Brown (pitchers) and Dale Kaminsky (first base).

The Pioneers will play at St. Michael on Thursday evening and Big Lake on Monday, May 27, before the homer opener vs. Anoka on June 1.