Dale Bruns loved coaching baseball on any level.

He was always thrilled watching the players he coached at Holdingford for 48 years play, improve, win, and grow into young adults. He was respected by the players and members of the district. What he did not know was that his fellow coaches also held him in high regard. He found that out Oct. 26 in Minneapolis when he was inducted into the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Holdingford High School Hall of Fame.

“I had no clue, I don’t know who nominated me,” he said. “I don’t really know the process [of being nominated].”

That may be about the only aspect of high school baseball he does not know. Bruns came to Holdingford in 1968, after graduating from St. Cloud State University. He taught social studies, helped write grants, and worked in the work-study program in Holdingford.

His love for teaching and sports extended to coaching baseball and football at Holdingford High School. His love for sports goes back to high school, when he played three sports at Adrian High School.

“In high school I played all sports and loved athletics,” he said. “I usually had to talk my dad into letting me play. We lived on a farm. But that’s where I learned to love sports.”

Before he came to Holdingford, he married Kathy, who is also an Adrian native. Their sons Jason and Paul attended Holdingford Public Schools, where Jason currently works as the athletic director. The two not only had their father as a teacher, but also for a coach. So did a number of other players at the school.

Bruns enjoyed almost every moment of his coaching career. He was the assistant coach for two years, head coach for 25 years and coached junior high for 20 years.

“When I left the head coach position, I missed that level (varsity) of competition,” he said. “But I loved coaching junior high. I like to teach and at that age, they are all ears.”

Coaching baseball is challenging, in every season, game and inning. It takes practice and patience to master the skills, and just as much patience to teach those skills.

“Baseball is a sport with skills that are difficult to accomplish,” Bruns said. “Try to hit an 85 mph fastball with another round object.”

He was successful in teaching those skills. On the varsity level, he finished with an overall record of 297 wins and 170 losses. If there was any regrets, it was that his teams never played in the state tournament. 

“I had some very deserving teams that should have advanced further than they did,” he said. “But we play in as tough of a section as any area in the state.”

The Huskers lost a number of close games to schools between County Rd. 17 and Minn. 23 during playoffs. Albany, Melrose, and Rocori all breathed a sigh of relief after getting past Holdingford. Then there was always the one power to the east of Holdingford - St. Cloud Cathedral.

“We lost 2-1, 1-0 games to them over the years in the section finals,” Bruns said. “Then they would win a state championship. I thought we had quality teams, but we never got past Cathedral.”

The area’s interest in baseball played no small part in that success. At one time, the Holdingford district was a feeder program, and benefited from having three amateur teams (Holdingford, Opole and St. Wendel) in the district. Bruns helped develop junior varsity and junior high teams to feed into the high school program.

In 1991, he was named the Central Minnesota Conference Coach of the Year. He credits much of the success to the students he coached through the programs. They brought more than just good athleticism.

“The main thing was, we have good kids,” he said. “I didn’t have to worry about disciplining kids. There was less than a handful of times when I had to sit somebody out or discipline someone at a practice. All the way through, I had kids that loved baseball.”

Bruns had a chance to work with some of them as adults from 1998 to 2005 when he was a coach with the Holdingford Express amateur team. That team won the 2005 Class C Championship with players he coached in high school.

Bruns also coached or assisted with the high school football program for 43 years. He is currently a statistician with the team. Attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was one of the few times he missed being at a Husker football game.

He was involved in more than sports, showing by example how one can be involved in all aspects of a community. He volunteers for Catholic Charities Meals on Wheels and is an active member of All Saints Catholic Church.

He withdrew from coaching and, with Kathy, he loves working and spending time with their six grandchildren. But even with them, baseball comes back into his life.

One of those attending the banquet was former Minnesota Twins Baseball player Joe Mauer. Other than their grandfather, Mauer might have been the best-known person in the room to the grandchildren.

“He was there because his high school coach was also being inducted into the hall of fame,” Bruns said. “They wanted to meet him and were able to have their picture taken with him.”

The induction was just part of a career in which Bruns was able to do something he really enjoyed. He taught young adults – and he could do it in a way he enjoyed the most.

“I loved being a head coach,” he said.