They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. In the Krause family, it’s the boys who love the diamonds –baseball diamonds. Three generations of Ron Krause’s family have grown up with a bat in their hand, and they not only all play baseball, they play together.
Ron Krause, Sr. has been involved in Milbank’s baseball program for 50 years. He played on the Legion Post 9 team from 1972 to 1974. Since then, he has coached his sons Patrick and Jesse and his grandsons Brady and Kaden. His son Ronnie also plays, but Ron was never officially his coach. Ronnie, however, received plenty of guidance off the field.
Ron says baseball never stops in the Krause household. “When we first moved into our house, it had a yard. After that, it was a baseball field. There was no point in mowing it because there was no grass left to mow. We just played ball all the time.”
“It might have been a wiffle ball or a tennis ball,” Ronnie recalls. “Whatever ball we could find, we always found a place to play the game. We still play catch when we’re at home.”
And the Krauses constantly discuss their technique and how they can improve. Kaden, a 2022 graduate of MHS, says, “You don’t stop talking about baseball in this family. You talk about what you did good and what you did bad. Then, when you go to practice, that’s the first thing you work on.” And practice makes perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but pretty darn good. Ron is one of a very small number of people to win a state championship with his son (Pat) and a state championship with his grandson (Brady).
In 2002, Pat was chosen MVP of the state tournament and South Dakota Class B Legion Player of the Year. Brady, who was the game-winning pitcher in the 2016 state championship game, also received the honor of Legion Player of the Year for 2016.
When Post 9 won the state trophy that year, it was the fourth time Milbank had brought home the championship. Post 9 had taken the title in 2001, and prior to that, Milbank had collected back-to-back titles in 1962 and 1963. Their 2016 victory was the second state title they had secured with Ron as their coach.
The younger members of the family agree that much of their individual success comes directly down the line from their grandpa and their dads. At some point, they all mention, “We’re always held to a higher standard to work hard and lead.”
Now that Jesse, Ronnie, and Pat coach their own kids, they say they understand how remarkable it was to have their dad coach them. And they realize it’s unusual to have a grandpa coaching his grandkids, too.
Kaden says, “The time I spend with them is different because we’re always talking about something we enjoy. We’re bonding through baseball.”
“It’s been a unique and special experience having my dad coach me, “Pat’s 13-year-old son, Lincoln, adds, “Not a lot of people get to have that with their dad.”
Pat says, “We all learned from Grandpa. We try to pass it down to our kids the same way we were taught.”
And they believe the effort put into training the fundamentals is time well spent. “Even when they are little, we have high expectations,” Jesse says. They’ll gradually get better and better as they go, but we know we showed them how to play the game the right way. Then, when they get to the next level, it’s easy for them to play the right way.”
Over the years, they have also evolved into a family of catchers. At first, they just gravitated to the position. But, Ronnie says, “Now, we are grooming them to be catchers. My dad made me see the importance of trusting your catcher. Jesse caught in Little League, and continued off-and-on in amateur ball, but Patrick was the first to become our family’s full-time catcher.” Patrick laughs and says, “I got told if I wanted to play, I was going to be a catcher.”
Ronnie nods and says, “When I saw what it did for Patrick as a player, I took Brady when he was in Pee-Wee ball and had him put the gear on right away. And, here we are; he’s still catching today.” Brady will celebrate his 25th birthday next week.”Now, my nine-year-old son, Riley, is starting out and doing a lot of catching in U10,” Ronnie adds.
If you follow baseball, you probably already know the catcher plays a pivotal role on the team, but Brady drives that point home, “Being the catcher means you dictate how the game is going to go. You keep the pitcher’s head in the game, regardless of what’s happening on the field. That goes back to Gramp’s coaching. Learning the game the right way and playing it the right way. As the catcher, you’re pretty much the captain and you try to get the best out of everyone.”
“The catcher is back there, but they have to know the game and they know every hitter from start to finish,” Ronnie adds. “They need to be smart and knowledgeable about the game.” Or, as the legendary Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Of course, it’s never just about winning. Winning is fun, but baseball is known as the Great American Game because it also teaches kids so much about life. There’s “no crying in baseball”, and there’s no clock in baseball. As long as a team is willing to fight, they’re still in the game. The other side can’t take a knee or dribble the ball until the buzzer blows. Anything can happen, even in the bottom of the ninth. It often does.
And no one and no team has ever won every game. Everybody suffers a few losses. And suffering is usually what a kid feels after a loss. The Krauses try to convey to their kids that although they take baseball pretty seriously, it’s still a game. “We teach that you aren’t going to have a good game every time. When you lose, you don’t throw your bat. You don’t throw your helmet. You lead by example,” Jesse says. “It’s not the end of the world. The sun is going to come up again tomorrow and you’re going to play another game.”
As time has gone by, the numbers the Krauses wear on their jerseys have taken on more meaning. Ron wore No. 7 back when he played for the amateurs, and now Brady wears that number for the amateurs. Kaden is the first one to wear that number for the Legion. Ronnie wears the No. 4 for the amateurs.
Next year, Kaden will become a full-time amateur player for the Firechiefs. (He now plays both Legion ball and amateur.) Ronnie says, “It’s going to be a new tradition for us. When we are all on the field together after Kaden has become a full-time player for the amateurs, I’m going to hand my number down to Brady, and Brady will hand No. 7 down to Kaden.”
The Krauses also have a soft spot for Milbank’s former baseball field that was demolished in 2019, and they all start jabbering and joking when the plans for the new field are mentioned. Most of all, they say, they can’t wait till it’s finished. Ron says, “We’ve been waiting a long time, but we know we’ll be impressed. They open the bids this Thursday (June 16) so we’re excited about that.”
He says, “It’s going to be great to be able to host big events in Milbank again. We’ve held state and national tournaments here, and as the birthplace of Legion Baseball we take pride in our field.” The Krause boys have worked hand-in-glove with the City of Milbank and volunteered countless times to keep the field in top shape. “We’ve always been there to run the tournaments,” Ronnie remembers. “We knew if there was a tournament scheduled, we were expected to be at the field to help get it ready.”
Ron recalls one year when Milbank was hosting the state tournament, and a big storm had hit. It rained buckets. “We got about five inches. Everyone said there was no way we were going to be able to play the game that day. We did. So many people from around town came to help and we got it done.”
“We were all sad to see our old field go,” Ronnie says. Right before the wrecking crew started, Ron made sure he made it to the field and he trotted out to stand on the pitcher’s mound one last time.
“But, the new one is going to be very nice, too, if it’s anything like the pictures,” Ronnie says. “If I don’t get to play on it, I hope to be umpiring.”
The new field is at least two years away from completion, but Milbank players continue to keep the faith, and fans religiously show up to cheer them on. Today, Father’s Day 2022, you get two guesses where the Krauses will be, but you probably only need one. They’ll be spending the day on the baseball field. The amateurs play a doubleheader in Clark. Ronnie, Brady, and Kaden will all play. Jesse, who was in charge of the Firechiefs for about 15 years, except for the 14 months when he was deployed to the Middle East, will be there, too.
“Most every Father’s Day you’ll find us on the field,” Ronnie says. It seems like the logical spot for three generations of baseball-loving boys to spend the day. It’s the place where they’ve made a million memories and experienced moments that are as precious and almost as rare as a T206 Honus Wagner baseball card.
Photo: Back row- Kaden, Jesse, Brady Middle row- Lincoln, Patrick & Ronnie Front row– Micah, Ron and Riley