A primary challenge that faces the Minot Vistas each summer is melding the personalities of 19-year-olds, fresh off their first year in college, and 16-year-olds, often fresh off their first year playing varsity high school baseball.
Brock Krueger is one of the 19-year-olds on this year's roster. He is the only one of the four unsure about whether his career on the diamond will continue after the American Legion season. Krueger also is one of the more reserved players on the team - far from outspoken and seldom a rah-rah guy. Despite being quieter by nature, he has garnered admiration from the team through his steady play on the field and ceaseless encouragement in the dugout.
"He's just what Minot Vista baseball's all about," 15th-year coach Todd Larson said. "He's a good kid, he competes hard, he plays the game hard, he's a good teammate and he knows about the Minot Vista tradition. ... We really try to emphasize that with all our kids."
Minot Vistas outfielder Brock Krueger takes an at-bat against Beulah on Thursday at Corbett Field. Krueger, 19, is one of the team’s top leaders on the field and in the dugout.
The Vistas (17-11) begin a five-day stretch of doubleheaders against Forest Lake (Minn.) at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Corbett Field.
Krueger spent his first year of college away from athletics at Minot State University. He was a standout for Minot High School in baseball and basketball, but competing was sometimes hindered by a sinus infection that caused - and occasionally still does - debilitating migraines.
"It has its days. On the really warm days, it really gets to a kid," said Krueger, who takes "really big pills. They're kind of hit or miss. I have to have a full stomach to take it and they just have a really bad taste."
The headaches have been minimal this summer and the outfielder has thrived at the plate. Krueger is in the team's top three in hits (27), RBIs (15), batting average (.375) and quality at-bats. In his only appearance on the mound, he pitched four hitless innings with five walks as the Vistas beat Devils Lake 10-0 in five innings.
He has received interest from Bismarck State College's baseball program, but would be content if this summer concludes his competitive career in the sport, especially if the Vistas make a strong run in the state tournament.
"You don't have to worry about school," he said. "You're around a great group of guys. You get to come out here at Corbett Field and practice out here like it's nothing. It's a great home field, so it's just a great feeling."
Krueger said a major factor in coming back for his third season with the Vistas was the chance to play with best friend Marcus Quist, the team's second baseman.
"When you see one of us, you're gonna see both of us," Quist said. "So it's really nice having him as a teammate because I know he has as much confidence in me as I have in him. So it's just, I don't know, we're pretty much brothers. We're pretty much the same person, which I don't know if it's a good thing or not, but I think it's a pretty good thing. It's really awesome having someone on the field that knows your every move and what you're gonna do."
First-year Vista Chandler Jacob, 16, is still learning what Legion baseball takes and credits Krueger for assisting in a smooth transition.
"Oh, he's a great leader. He makes you feel at home," Jacob said. "Some of the older guys aren't the nicest to the younger kids, but he's done a great job of being nice. He's always cheering you on and rooting you on and making you feel good and helping you out along the way."
The appreciation is shared. Krueger knew of the expected roster and seamlessly accepted his leadership role.
"I'm really close to Marcus," Krueger said. "He's probably my best friend. You know, he was doing it, so anything to stay with him and the guys. I like this group, we've got a good team here. It's a good group of kids and it's a lot of fun to be around."
The Vistas are still trying to shake an inconsistent start to the second half of the season and Krueger is expected to play a major role. In Thursday's 6-4 win over Beulah, he was one of three consecutive Minot batters to drive in runs with a double, in what proved a pivotal third inning.
"He's playing as hard as he can," Larson said. "He's giving us everything he has mentally and physically. He's a great kid, you know. You'd like to put your arm around the kid and take him home with ya."
Tim Chapman covers the Vistas and Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp