NEW ULM - The Upper Midwest Classic in New Ulm usually brings in several college baseball coaches during its four-day run and this year's was no exception.
Baseball coaches from the University of Minnesota, St. Mary's of Winona and St. John's were at the tournament.
Also at Johnson Park was former New Ulm resident Brian Raabe, who is the head baseball coach at Bethel University in Arden Hills.
Raabe said his team finished this season 26-15 and won its first-ever playoff game in its history.
"We have been in the playoffs for the last two years and in the first 12 years before I was here we were not in the playoffs," Raabe said. "So we are very happy where things are and the direction of where things are going. I am here looking for good players who are also good students in the classroom."
Raabe, who coached baseball at Forest Lake High School before accepting the Bethel job, said that there are a lot of people who do not think that there is a big transition from high school baseball to college baseball even at the Division III level where Bethel competes.
"People are really wrong," Raabe said. "There is a jump from kids to young men:?The players are just better. I had a top-five program in Forest Lake and only a couple of those players ended up playing as freshmen on my Bethel team. That is how good the players are.
"To be a college athlete you have to be a good student and a good baseball player, otherwise it does not work."
Raabe said it is hard finding that balance between a good student who can do the required schoolwork at a college like Bethel but is also talented enough to play D-III baseball.
"The good players now know that they also have to have good grades," Raabe said. "If they do not have good grades they are really selling themselves short. I can determine who is a good ballplayer in two minutes - that is not hard for me. The hard part is to get those kids to come and see Bethel and have that as their fit."
Raabe said that he is averaging between 15-20 kids in a freshman class, noting that he is getting more talent each year.
Raabe's coaching philosophy is "basically how I played the game. I want players who love the game and play hard. If they do that they will usually have success on the field and also in the classroom. If they are coachable and willing to listen, we have a shot with them."
Reflecting on his high school baseball coaching Raabe said he does miss the kids that he had in high school baseball.
"But I do not miss coaching high school baseball," Raabe said. "The only reason why is like anything else is that 10 percent of the parents ruin things.
"In high school baseball there are parents who think that they know better than their high school coach and that was no different in Forest Lake. I loved the program up there and what we accomplished, but I am certainly happy coaching college baseball. I am in a passion job - I am 45 years old and I have a baseball career. Not a bad situation."