An RSM pastime
REMSEN — Remsen St. Mary’s celebrated their 100th anniversary of baseball last weekend, May 29 and 30, bringing together generations of Hawks alumni, family and friends to honor former players and reminisce on the program’s century of storied success.
The celebration culminated in an alumni exhibition game at Marv Thelen field on Sunday, May 30.
“There’s a lot of culture out here on this field today,” said current head coach and former Hawks star Dean Harpenau. “It’s kind of a brotherhood, a fraternity. This is all about the families and the legacies we’ve left; the Picks, Harpenaus, Boevers, Schorgs, Kleins... I could go on and on; there are a lot of families and players involved with baseball in this community, and it’s a really neat thing to come out here today and celebrate that.”
Among Sunday’s festivities was a homecoming of sorts for Mike Meyer, who spent eight years coaching under Hawks legend Marv Thelen, helping lead St. Mary’s consistent success during his tenure in Remsen. He was presented with a plaque by Dean Harpenau that read, “One of RSM Hawks’ Finest.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my coaching career,” Meyer said. “I had a very strong mentor in Marv Thelen, and we found some success pretty quickly in baseball and volleyball throughout my eight years here.”
Remsen St. Mary’s earned a total of nine state tournament appearances before Thelen’s passing in 1987, including three fall state championships in 1980, 1981 and 1984, along with three consecutive 2A summer state titles from 1983 to 1985.
Expounding on his relationship with the late Thelen, Meyer said, “Although there was a bit of an age difference between us, Marv and I, we were really close friends. He brought me into his coaching staff as his assistant and I always respected him for that. Of course, the state championships and all that were fantastic experiences, but what I miss most about my time here is all of the hours that Marv and I spent just talking about baseball and education. Aside from my father, who has passed on, Thelen is probably one of the people I miss the most, and a lot of these guys out here feel the same way.”
“I’m so proud to be a part of this history,” said Mark Harpenau, who played catcher for the Hawks with his cousin, Dean. “It’s just a dream to be back here on the field we grew up on, and it’s an honor to keep the tradition going for the younger generation. These guys are your brothers, all the way through life,” he added. “It’s great to be back here and pick up those conversations from 20 or 30 years ago just like you never left. Remsen is a very special place.”
Meyer was teased over the loudspeaker about his current allegiance to RSM rival Gehlen Catholic, where he has coached volleyball for the last 14 years and led the Jays to 11 state tournament appearances.
Meyer added, “It’s really a special honor to be remembered like this today, and I’m incredibly proud that this tradition of St. Mary’s baseball has carried on so strongly through the years.”
Continuing with the sentiment of tradition, Dean added, “For St. Mary’s baseball, it’s always the number one goal to get to the state tournament and win a state title, and the team truly believes that every year. It gets tough, being one of the smallest schools in the state, but we come out here year after year with the hopes of continuing that tradition. There hasn’t been, at least a group that I’ve had, a single team that doesn’t believe we can compete at the highest level and bring home another trophy for our community.”
Dean has had a very crucial hand in said tradition as a player and head coach. He pitched a shutout in their 1984 fall state championship victory over Holy Cross, and threw a complete game in their 1985 summer state championship against Kee-Lansing.
“Those were some special moments,” Dean said. “Along with (my son Brady’s) title in 2016, those are times I’ll never forget.”
Remsen St. Mary’s has seen great success in recent years, as well, boasting five consecutive state tournament appearances in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The Hawks also reached Des Moines’ Principal Park in 2007, 2010 and 2013.