Blue Earth Area tandem signs to play baseball for BLC

DOUBLE SIGNING — Blue Earth Area catcher Karson Legred (second from left) and Bucs pitcher Hunter Bleess (second from right) sign their letters of intent to play baseball for Bethany Lutheran College next season. From far left, Julie Legred, Brent Legred, Bucs head coach Todd Schmidtke, Nick Bleess and Shelley Bleess attended Monday’s signing session at Blue Earth Area High School. (Photo by Kyle McAreavy)

BLUE EARTH — A pair of battery mates are heading to Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato.

After growing up playing together, Hunter Bleess will continue to pitch to catcher Karson Legred in college. The pair signed letters of intent to play for Bethany on Monday.

“It’s really exciting,” Bleess said about continuing to play with Legred. “I’ve thrown to Karson my whole life, he’s always been my catcher, so to be able to do it next year, too, is awesome. Hopefully, we might be roommates as well. Having one of my best friends going into it is going to be a lot of fun.”

Legred agreed and said Bleess’ decision to go to BLC helped him decide that was where he wanted to be, too.

“I like the location, it’s close to home,” Legred said. “Obviously, the baseball program has been doing really well the past few years. Coach (Ryan) Kragh contacted me and we talked for a bit, then when Hunter committed I thought that would be really cool.”

Bleess said the success of the program and the school’s investment in the baseball program helped him decide he wanted to be a Viking.

“I knew their program was pretty good, they won their conference last year,” Bleess said. ” … I went up there for a visit and got to know him pretty well. I spent the day there and liked the campus. Obviously the field, (Franklin Rogers Park) it’s probably one of the best in the state. They just spent a bunch of money re-doing that, which means they’re invested in the baseball program, which is really exciting.”

With two stars moving on from the program, Blue Earth Area head baseball coach Todd Schmidtke said the pair are not only good players, but good people. He said they work hard to get better and would do anything for their team.

“They’re as coachable of kids as I’ve ever had,” Schmidtke said. “They love baseball and come from great families. They’re good students, they’re good kids, just good young men. I think Bethany is lucky to have them. I know they can both play at the college level and be contributors, I’m proud of them.

“Hunter will play anywhere, he even said if Karson had to pitch, he would catch for him. That’s the kind of kids they are. … They’ve meant a lot (for the BEA baseball program) they’re good leaders. We have four seniors (Legred, Bleess, Brayden Barnett and Kyle Hagedorn) and all four of them are really good baseball guys. They love their team, they love the game, they play hard and they practice hard. I think it’s really good that Hunter and Karson will be playing close by so if Blue Earth people want to watch them, it’s an easy trip. It’s a win-win for Blue Earth. With our youth program, when you have guys move on like this the younger guys see them and think, ‘That’s the thing to do. I want to do that.'”

Baseball won’t be all for Legerd and Bleess while at Bethany. Bleess said he wants to go into physical therapy, while Legred said he will be pre-med.

But when they are on the field, they will continue to do what they have loved their whole lives.

“I’ve always loved baseball,” Legred said. “Baseball has always been my favorite sport.”

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always known that baseball is my thing,” Bleess said. “I’ve been playing since tee-ball, playing in every league I can get into, playing almost every night during the summer.”

Legred and Bleess will join former BEA players such as Trent Sonnicksen and Brandyn Olsen in playing baseball at Bethany.

The pair will be part of a team that went 20-16 in the 2019 season, with a 13-3 record in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and now has a shot to win the UMAC tournament, which starts with a matchup against No. 3-seeded University of Northwestern. In 2018, the Vikings finished the season with a 23-12, 14-2 record and won the UMAC postseason tournament after beating No. 1-seeded College of St. Scholastica. Bethany went on to play in the NCAA Division III regional tournament.

Schmidtke said the pair has had to work through tough times, but each always tries their best and works to get better. He said after a shoulder injury, Legred has become one of the best catchers in the Big South Conference, while Bleess has become one of the best pitchers.

“Karson, two years ago, had an injury to his shoulder and we were heart broken because he plays football, he plays hockey, but his love is baseball,” Schmidtke said. “He had to play first base and designated hitter pretty much the whole season. He worked hard at rehabbing, his arm was a little bit not where it is now, but he kept working and working and working, now he’s one of the best catchers in our conference. Hunter is as good a pitcher as there is in the conference, too. They’ve worked hard, they do baseball stuff in the winter, they go to the cities and do baseball camps. They’ve played on every baseball team they’re eligible to play on. They love other sports, but their first love is baseball. As their baseball coach, that’s been pretty cool.”


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