This Freeman Courier photo from March 1992 shows Jacob Mark Weier getting in some batting practice with his grandfather, Milt Mehlhaf. Weier’s grandmother, Jean, is delivering the pitch.
Milt was a big baseball fan and rooted for the Chicago Cubs and Freeman’s Town Team.
In an interview with the Courier in 1979, he said, “I’ve been involved with baseball since I was a kid.” He grew up in Menno, where he played and then coached high school baseball in Lake Norton from 1949 to 1953.
When he and his wife, Jean (Waltner), moved to Freeman in 1953, where he joined the staff at First National Bank, he became an active supporter of the Freeman baseball program.
His interest in the sport also included a long stint with the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association (SDABA), including holding the post of secretary-treasurer for many years.
He played a major role in bringing the 1979 State Baseball Tournament to Freeman in 1979. Freeman hosted the 47th state tournament in its centennial year. The 10-day, single-division tournament featuring 30 teams began Friday, Aug. 17 and was plagued with rain. An inch fell the Thursday night before the opening game and local organizers scrambled to dry the field in time for the four games scheduled that day. And while the rains continued to play havoc with the schedule, in the end, everything worked out well and SDABA officials praised Freeman for successfully hosting the state tournament. Canova, who defeated Freeman in second round play, went on to win the title. It was the last time the state tournament was played in a small town; the following year the tournament moved to Mitchell. In 1991 it became a two tiered-tournament with an A and B division.
Mehlhaf was justifiably proud of Freeman’s efforts in hosting the tournament. After the first week of rain-plagued play, he told the Courier, “the local cooperation has been fantastic, Guys like Marlin Wollman, Ken Handel, Erwin Aman, Erhard Koerner, Loren Heckenlaible, the ticket takers and the parking crew ... these guys have done one heck of a job.”
Mehlhaf was passionate about the positive impact the SDABA was having on the sport and the communities that participate. Several weeks before the tournament began, he told the Courier, “We think it is important that there is something available for those who wish to continue ball after Legion play.
“It provides a source of recreation and builds good relationships with people through the state,” he continued. “You can’t beat the friendships.”
Another amateur baseball season will begin the first week of May for the Freeman Blacksox, who this year are coached by — guess who — Jacob Weier. Milt, who was inducted into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and died in 2008, would no doubt be proud.