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Paynesville Press - September 11, 2002

Roscoe coach gets KARE award

By Michael Jacobson

For the third year in a row, a graduate of Paynesville High School has been named as one of KARE-TV's Eleven Who Care.

Two years ago, Dr. James Hess (PHS '71) was honored for his work providing eye care and eye glasses to people in Third World countries.

Last year, Tom Koshiol (PHS '71) was honored for establishing and mentoring the Crow River Trail Guards, a youth group that meets every Saturday morning to maintain the city park and trails along the Crow River in Paynesville.

This year, Art Schlangen (PHS '72) was honored for his work with youth baseball in Roscoe. Schlangen was honored as one of the 11 recipients of the award during a live broadcast on KARE-TV Channel 11 on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

Art Schlangen "Having seen Art on the field in his wheelchair, his young players gathered around him for instruction, support, and advice," wrote Koshiol in his weekly Press column last week, "I immediately thought of him when asked to nominate a worthy individual after last year's award banquet. Talking to a few of his young players helped me make my final decision."

Art was once a promising baseball player himself. He grew up one of 13 kids on a farm a mile and a half southeast of Roscoe. He started playing baseball before he could remember. "We always played," he recalled. "We used to eat quick at noontime so we could play ball."

He lettered three years in baseball at PHS, eventually playing every position for the Bulldogs in a game except catcher and second base. He started playing town team for the Roscoe Rangers at 15, but didn't crack the lineup until he was 17, being named to the All-Star Game that same year, the first of four appearances for him.

Art Schlagen has helped the youth baseball program in Roscoe for more than 20 years. He recently was named a receipient of the Eleven Who Care Award by KARE-TV.

In 1974, while in his early 20s, his playing days ended abruptly. In November, his car hit a patch of ice, hurtling vehicle and driver to the ditch, where he suffered a broken back and damaged his spinal cord. The bones healed, but his spinal cord did not, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

He spent two months in the hospital in 1974, and another month in the hospital in 1975 after more surgery. That same year, though, he started contributing to the game he loves, helping the Roscoe baseball team as its statistician. The next year, he became the scorekeeper, too.

In 1978, he co-managed the Rangers but gave up the job after one year due to his health. He managed a female softball team for three years in the early 1980s before the Roscoe baseball program came calling again.

The Little League team needed a coach, so Art agreed to do it. Then he went to a league meeting to inform the powers-that-be that Roscoe had a team...and was named secretary of the league.

"In 1984, the same thing happened with the (American) Legion (team). Nobody wanted to do it, so they asked me," said Art.

For Little League, Art has been the secretary for the Little Dipper League since 1983, with Charlie Hennen of St. Martin (the only Little League manager with more experience than Art) serving as president since 1984. For the Stearns County Legion League, Art is both the league secretary and the league president.

He served as team statistician for 20 years (updating season stats weekly and keeping career totals for Rangers players), as an officer of the baseball club for 15 years, and on the Roscoe Fun Days Committee for four years. He is still the scorekeeper for the Rangers (when he isn't coaching either his Little League or Legion teams), still is an officer for the Stearns County League (currently serving as vice president after a decade-long run as president), and has organized the volleyball tournament at Roscoe Fun Days for 21 years.

At the peak of his baseball involvement, a typical summer week for Schlangen went something like this: a Rangers game on Sunday afternoon, a Little League game on Sunday night, Legion practice on Monday night, Little League practice on Tuesday afternoon, a Legion game on Tuesday night, a Little League game on Wednesday night, a Legion game on Thursday night, and usually a Rangers exhibition game on Friday night.

(He also played wheelchair basketball for five years, played wheelchair softball in a couple tournaments, once took second in an eight-mile wheelchair race, and has woven a mile-long gum-wrapper chain since his accident.)

Art has no words to describe his love for the game of baseball, though its pull on him is plain to see. He was inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in September of 1993.

He plans to keep coaching as long as the players will have him. "I like teaching them how to play," said Art, who has lived in Richmond since 1991. "That's the most fun part: teaching them how to play." "You've got to learn the basics of the game first - how to catch, how to throw - then you can learn the fundamentals of the game -where to throw," he explained.

One rule that Art has for himself as a youth coach is that everybody gets to play in every game. Some years, Art has had so many players to make this impossible, forcing him to form a separate PeeWee team to get these players gametime. More recently, though, it's been tougher getting nine players for a team, let alone finding time for them to practice.

Schlangen believes that winning is overvalued in youth sports in America. "Winning is not #1," he said. "It's more learning the game, having fun, and getting better." Schlangen asks three things from his ballplayers: (1) Have fun. (2) Work hard. Try to improve. (3) Practice good sportsmanship. Treat fans, umpires, opposing players, teammates, and coaches with respect.

The Roscoe American Legion team won his only league title in 1997, and he doesn't judge his success at coaching youth by his won-loss record. "According to that," he says with a laugh, "I'm the worst coach there is. My record is bad."

What he's thankful for are all the good kids he's had the opportunity to coach. He could count the real serious discipline problems on one hand, he said, and he appreciates the work his players have done to carry the equipment and rake the field, tasks he is unable to do, which has enabled him to coach. "It's been really fun," he said. "I've had real good kids over the years."

He also thanks all the people of Roscoe who have helped him over the years, especially his brothers and sisters.

A KARE-TV camera crew came to Roscoe in July to film Schlangen at practice with his Little League team, which was used on the broadcast last week. Art also had to give a 45-second thank-you speech, which was broadcast live from the Minneapolis Hilton. Also, on account of his award, Art was asked to throw out the first pitch at a River Bats game in St. Cloud this summer.

For the award from KARE-11, Schlanged got to donate $1,100 to charity, which he split between the Roscoe Rangers Baseball Club and the Roscoe Community Recreation Club.

(Editor's Note: KARE-11 will rebroadcast its show about the Eleven Who Care Awards on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 8 to 10 a.m.)

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