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Athletics: Venturing in the past with Veith

Tony Veith might be the most unassuming super star athlete in Brainerd. The 60-year-old construction worker and his wife Ruth Ann have a blended family of three daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren. When they aren't taking up his time, Vei...

Brainerd's Tony Veith signals during a Central Lakes College softball game earlier this season. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd's Tony Veith signals during a Central Lakes College softball game earlier this season. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Tony Veith might be the most unassuming super star athlete in Brainerd.

The 60-year-old construction worker and his wife Ruth Ann have a blended family of three daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren. When they aren't taking up his time, Veith officiates basketball, softball and baseball games.

To hear others talk about Veith, however, you get the sense right away he was special on the playing field.

 

Q: Last year, the Brainerd Parks and Recreation department used you in an ad campaign to get more youth into baseball. Could you ever imagine a day when we would need to advertise to get kids to play baseball?

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Tony Veith: No, not really, but there are so many different avenues for the kids. Their options are many.

 

Q: I hear stories about when you were in bronco and pony baseball and it wasn't pretty for opposing pitchers. What was summer baseball like back then?

 

TV: It was something I always looked forward to and the kids were talking about it at the end of the school year. They were excited to play.

 

Q: It's never going to be like it was back then, but do you believe we put too much emphasis on specializing in sports?

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TV: I believe kids should be able to play as many sports as they can, but I also believe if the kids want to play just one sport that's OK. I like to see all kids have options to play other sports. I understand now that other sports do lap over more than when I was playing and that's where the bigger problem comes.

 

Q: From what my predecessor Mike Bialka always told me, you were good at a really young age. What drove you to keep working and getting better?

 

TV: I'm not sure. I do know that my passion is baseball without a doubt. It's hard that I can't play it now. Mainly, I think I enjoyed competition so I always gave 100% in any sport I played.

 

Q: What did athletics mean to you growing up and a second part what did they teach you about yourself?

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TV: It was all I wanted to do-baseball, football, basketball, didn't matter, I just wanted to play. I learned teamwork and to rely on and trust your teammates. As fun as it was to win, it also taught me humility and good sportsmanship.

 

Q: When you were coming out of high school what were your options as far as baseball was concerned?

 

TV: Either to go play with the Cubs organization, baseball at the University of North Dakota or other offers for baseball for some of the surrounding colleges-University of Minnesota, University of Wyoming, North Dakota State University.

 

Q: You were drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1977. There wasn't social media back then, nor was there ESPN. How did you find out and what were your thoughts about that?

 

TV: I received a phone call and then a visit from Buck O'Neal who had scouted me. It was a thrill and sometimes I got more attention than I was comfortable with. It was a dream come true to be able to play in the minor leagues and hopefully go on.

 

Q: What were the minor leagues like back in those days?

 

TV: Fun. Everyone there wanted to play; rewarding and exciting all the time. Not sure if it has changed much in that respect

 

Q: Do you have any regrets about not making the majors?

 

TV: Looking back, I could have put my nose to the grindstone just a little bit harder. Maybe not have dove for that ball in the first two weeks that dislocated my thumb and put me out for the whole year.

 

Q: What were your strengths in baseball and what are traits you enjoy watching as a fan of the game?

 

TV: I loved to hit. Hated to strike out. Enjoyed coming to the plate with guys on, putting the barrel of the bat on a good pitch. I like to watch the ball leave the yard at a high velocity and guys putting the ball into play and not striking out.

 

Q: Looking back at yourself in high school, could you compete with today's high school athletes?

 

TV: Yes, I think I could but maybe my awesome coaches I had could answer that better: some of them were Scearcy, Haapojoki, Vanek, Stolski, Bialka and a little league coach that some may not know now Bud Schmidt.

 

Q: What are some trends you like that are happening on the basketball court and baseball diamond and what a few of the things you see that you just shake your head at?

 

TV: Good coaching. More discipline. Going in a positive direction. Most kids and coaches are great; sometimes the stress of the game gets to everyone.

 

Q: I asked Dick Bremer this earlier this spring, but what can baseball at all levels do to speed the game up? Should the officials do more to get the game rolling?

 

TV: Not sure you can. Each game has a character of its own-pitchers that are quicker on the mound, lots of good hustle, no one waiting for someone else. We can try, but sometimes when we push the game pushes back.

 

Q: I've seen you officiating softball games the last few weeks both at the college and high school level. It's a different style of play than baseball, do you enjoy the game?

 

TV: I do enjoy the game. Most of the talent I see is competitive with the baseball I see. It's much faster and can be very pitcher orientated which makes it more competitive and requires more concentration because the opportunities are few.

 

Q: What is one sport that you wish you would have tried or maybe a sport that Brainerd High School offers now that you wish you could have done when you were in school?

 

TV: Definitely hockey.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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