Wesselmann enjoying new view of the baseball diamond
REMSEN — Jim Wesselmann has a different perspective for this year’s baseball season. While most of his life has been spent either playing or coaching the game, Wesselmann is spending this season as a spectator.
“To tell the truth, it’s a lot more relaxing, you can sit back and enjoy the game and see things from a different perspective,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve watched too many games from the outfield, most of them have been from the dugout, so it’s a different perspective and kind of a nice change.”
It might seem strange to step away from the game on a year in which Remsen St. Mary’s could very well compete for a state title after not losing anyone off last year’s state semifinalist team, but Wesselmann said he wanted to step away quietly.
“It was perfect,” he said. “We graduated no seniors last year, so I could leave under the radar. I came into coaching quietly and I wanted to leave quietly, too. If they’re fortunate to make it to state again, I’ll be in the stands and again I’ll be relaxed.”
Wesselmann’s career included two of the most unique state championship games to be played. The first came as a player at Bancroft St. John, a school which, like Remsen St. Mary’s, was known for their baseball tradition. Wesselmann was one of the pitchers for St. John in the longest championship game in state history, a 13-inning contest against Kee, Lansing in 1980. While Bancroft led 3-1 in the seventh, Kee tied the game to force extras and prevailed 4-3 in a game which lasted three hours and 27 minutes. Wesselmann, who won 20 games that season, threw seven innings the night before in the state semifinals before taking the mound the next day for nine innings in the championship. He recalled the day being a hot one in Marshalltown as temperatures reached the 90s.
Wesselmann was also involved in the first championship game to feature two schools from the same small-school conference when in 2016, Remsen St. Mary’s avenged a pair of regular season losses to West Sioux with an 8-5 win over the Falcons in the title game.
“That was just one of those things where everything clicked at the right time,” he said. “We got big hits when we needed them, big strikeouts when we needed. We had a big comeback in the semifinal against Mason City Newman. It was one of those magical years.”
That championship game featured the last of Wesselmann’s four sons to play baseball as Jacob took the mound. Jim said one of the best parts of coaching was being able to coach his sons Jason, Michael, Matt and Jacob.
“It was a special treat to coach all four of them at least part of their high school career,” he said. “I should thank my wife too for allowing me to be a kid for 50-some years. She did a hell of a job raising the kids while I was on the road or playing.”
Originally, the plan was to step away from coaching after Jacob’s senior year, but a few things got in the way before Jim finally found the right time this season.
“I was going to retire after Jacob graduated in 2017,” he said. “Then one of the other coaches, Nick Staab, left that year so I thought I can’t leave Dean without another coach. The next year I was going to retire and Cam Kuchel, who was one of our assistants, took the head job at MMCRU, so I couldn’t leave yet. So I hung on for two more years after Jacob graduated.”
Prior to his time at RSM, Wesselmann coached at Corwith-Wesley-Luverne, was the coach at Bancroft St. John in their final season, and then spent time at Okoboji. He recalls just one bad season at Okoboji, but had success in most years.
“It goes back to the kids. I was very fortunate and very blessed to have a lot of young men that wanted to play baseball, they wanted to learn, they played well together and those things you can’t coach, especially the chemistry part of it,” he said. “The fun part is to see them grow, go to college, go into their careers.”
Wesselmann came to Remsen St. Mary’s as an administrator and didn’t really think he’d be coaching, but the opportunity presented itself.
“I came here in ’04 and I had no intention of ever coaching again,” he said. “There’s a lot of schools that don’t allow their administrators to coach, but there was an opening in the summer of ’05 and just kind of fell into the position. I took a few years off in ’09-10 but then I was right back at it.”
Most recently he spent time as co-coach with Dean Harpenau in a stretch which saw RSM reach state each of the last four years. Now he leaves with a career record of 661-262.
When it comes to his coaching philosophy over the years, a lot of it was shaped by his own high school coach, Vincent Meyer, who retired with a career record of 1,105-179, which was the most wins by a coach at the time of his retirement and currently third in Iowa and national rankings.
“The coach I had there was there for 46 years and he was a legendary coach,” he said. “I played on the second-to-last team that he had. He was highly intelligent. He was very high on fundamentals. Fundamentally you have to be sound and that’s one of the biggest things I took from him in my coaching.”
While he won’t completely rule out a return to coaching, he says it’s unlikely as he wants to spend more time with family.
“You can never say never. The bug might bite me again in a couple years and might jump back into it, but for right now, I don’t foresee that,” he said. “I retired from coaching, but I didn’t retire from baseball so I’ll always kind of be around. I don’t think I could throw batting practice anymore, but I could probably hit some infield every once and awhile. We have two kids in Omaha, two in the Des Moines area and Jacob is at Briar Cliff yet. We’ll probably wear out the interstate between them going back and forth. We’ve got one more trip to Arizona to watch Jacob play on their southern trip and then we’ll be done with that part of the Wesselmanns and then just wait for the grandkids to play.”