Apr. 7—WORTHINGTON — Zach Bakko is the kind of person who makes the best out of what he's got.
And that's good, because the first-year head coach of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College baseball team doesn't have much depth this spring. With only 11 athletes on the team — and all of them freshmen — Bakko will need every player he's got.
"I applied for this job probably around September. I was told it was going to be a smaller team. I understood the world was in a different place," he recalled recently.
The Bluejays were in a different place, too. Veteran mentor TD Hostikka had resigned, the COVID-19 pandemic was going strong, and because of the uncertainty West's ballplayers chose different options.
Bakko was expecting more than 11 players. But he looks at the bright side. He's getting good support from the college and he's got a dependable assistant coach, Nic LaPorta. When Bakko, a former player at Rochester Community College and Augsburg University, took over the Jays, he went right to work.
"Like anything else in my life, I was like, 'What can I do now? What can I do so it doesn't happen again, and what do we do for the future?'" he said.
Bakko wants to win games. And he's intent on building for the future, with nothing but high-character student/athletes.
The Bluejays played their first regular season game last Thursday at MState-Fergus Falls, losing 12-2. They were scheduled to play another road game Tuesday against the Mount Marty College JV, then go on the road again Thursday against Ellsworth Community College JV.
Bakko, who before taking on the Minnesota West job served as a graduate assistant baseball coach at Augsburg, has four key members for 2021.
Gehrig Monday, from Whitewater, Wis., will do a lot of pitching. A righthander, he has good command and can also play shortstop.
Ian Stamer, a local product from Adrian, will also get plenty of mound work. He will also play centerfield, said his coach, "because the kid can just flat-out fly." Bakko considers Stamer and Monday to be outstanding leaders.
Edgar Aviles, a freshman from Tampa Bay, Fla., is a versatile player who's also serving as the team's translator for the Puerto Rican players on the team.
And Rodrigo Santa, from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, is an excellent student and very hard-working first baseman. "You gotta tell him no more reps," said Bakko, smiling.
Bakko describes himself as a person obsessed with progress, and there's much progress yet to be made on the Minnesota West baseball squad. His determination to succeed goes at least as far back as his own baseball-playing days.
"I think the fact that I became a switch-hitter just to get on the field — I did everything I could just to play," he recalled.