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New coach

By Mike Bialka
Brainerd Dispatch 6-15-12

After graduating from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth and entering
the working world, Blake Eller realized he wanted to be a baseball coach. The 2004 Brainerd High School graduate, a standout player for the Warriors
and in college for the Saints, served the last two years as a graduate assistant
coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. “I’ve wanted to coach for the last few years,” Eller said. “Obviously, I
always loved playing the game and everything involved with it. (The game)
teaches you about yourself and about life. I wanted to get involved and help
kids who want to play.” On June 11, Eller’s career path took another step in the right direction when
he was hired as head baseball coach at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. He
succeeds Pat Held, who resigned following last season.

“When I got done with grad school I was on the job search,” Eller said.
“There was not a lot going on, so I decided to come back to town. I heard coach
Held had retired. I thought about that for a while, and (CLC athletic director)
Jim (Russell) called me and said he wanted to meet. That got the wheels turning
in my head.
“I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to start with a program that
hasn’t had a lot of success in the past, but last year started to grow a little
bit, and put my stamp on it.
“I have a lot of good mentors. In speaking with Jim, he said he talked to a
couple people who gave me good references. He’s been talking to (Warriors head
coach) Lowell Scearcy, who’s been great to me. (Warriors assistant) Keith
Peterson and (Brainerd Bees coach) Tim Martin have helped me along the way, too.
I appreciate what those guys have done for me.”
Russell was thrilled to hire an individual who’s come through the Brainerd
baseball system and was a standout player.
“He’s a Brainerd guy, he’s from the Brainerd community,” Russell said. “He
played four years in college, was a graduate assistant at Southwest State, that
alone says a lot about him, and about his character. Just the connections he has
in the Central Lakes Conference, at the high school, and with Scearcy, he went
through that system.
“We’re excited to get a baseball guy. I’m looking forward to seeing how he
does. I will work with him. Baseball is his love and it’s his dream to coach
college baseball. Hopefully, he sets his stamp on this program. As an AD, I will
do everything I can to help him out.”
Eller, 26, takes over a program that went 0-31 in 2011 but began to right
itself this spring. Eller’s brother, Grant, gets married this weekend. When
Eller returns he will begin recruiting.
“Guys that win put in the time, and that’s what I will do,” Eller said. “Guys
who play for me will be hard-workers, good students, good people off the field.
I think that translates to success on the field.
“I’ve been away from Brainerd the last eight years. It’s good to be back,”
Eller said. “I’m definitely looking forward to putting in the hard work around
people I know. Hopefully, we can put something out there (the community is)
proud of and we win some games.”
At St. Scholastica, Eller helped the Saints to four NCAA region
As a senior in 2008, he batted .443 in 36 games with 11 doubles, five home
runs and 36 RBIs and was named first team all-conference.
During his junior season, Eller led the team with a .429 average and hit 14
doubles, 12 triples, three home runs and led the team with 58 RBIs.
For the Saints, he was a two-time all-conference outfielder, conference
player of the year as a junior, all-region his junior and senior years, a
preseason All-American his senior year and was the regional’s most outstanding
player his senior year.
At BHS, he was a two-time all-conference selection and played in the Lions
All-Star Series.
Following graduation from St. Scholastica, Eller attended tryout camps for
the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, as well as trying out for a
independent league teams. Those experiences motivated him to coach.
“The White Sox (tryout) went well,” he said. “A scout told me they would
contact me, but the call never came. It’s something that happens in the baseball
world. That motivated me to keep working after it didn’t work out.
“I had a tryout with an independent team the summer after I graduated from
St. Scholastica but they weren’t looking for a player my style. They wanted more
of a big, power hitter, and they didn’t sign me either.
“About six months after that, when I was working and not in baseball shape, I
was offered another tryout, but I decided the job I was doing at the time was
too much to give up. Looking back now, I kind of wish I would have went and did
that but at the time it didn’t feel right.
“Coaching drove me to push kids to make sure they don’t have any regrets or
what ifs.”

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