Bluffton baseball is about family. Multiples of last names people the Braves' lineup each summer. One of those names is Geiser and for 40 years, Terry Geiser has been in the dugout as a player and the last 15 years as manager.
The Bluffton Braves were playing a doubleheader in Henning this past July. On no more fitting place than the ball field, Geiser was informed he was being inducted into the Minnesota Baseball Hall of Fame.
"Tim Kupfer walked in at the end of the game and announced it to a gathering of our fans and teammates," Geiser said.
The thing with Bluffton Braves baseball is the team travels with a crowd. Fans and family in lawn chairs on the hill behind the home dugout populate games in Bluffton. Not all Hi-10 and Countryside games are like that. Many games are played in front of sparsely populated grandstands. Not in Bluffton.
Kupfer was a teammate and is a lifelong friend of Geiser's. With the aid of Geiser's son Matt, the duo spearheaded the nomination process to get Geiser into the Hall.
"The Hall of Fame process was new to me when I started," Kupfer said. "I ran into Rick Johnson from Wadena, who is on the Hall of Fame Committee, about a year ago and he told me we need to nominate someone from this area for the Hall of Fame. The first person to come to me was Terry. I then started checking into the process and filled out the application and cover letter and was in contact with a member of the committee as well as Rick Johnson."
Once one is nominated as a candidate for the Hall, the next step is letters in support of the nomination from members of the community. That was not a tall task in Bluffton.
"I think when I finally sent them in we had over 60 letters in support," Kupfer said.
"Tim mentioned nominating me last fall and I just kind of blew it off," Geiser said.
There is something about Bluffton and baseball and Geiser's nomination to the Hall of Fame brings life to a small town and its love for the game.
"It's because of the family atmosphere," Geiser said. "A lot of families related are playing together and a lot of kids are coming up with names that have been there a long time."
As proof, Terry played with his four brothers: Dale, Brian, Bruce and Kyle in Bluffton. There are six Geiser's (Terry and his five sons), three Sweere's and two Dykhoff's on the Bluffton Braves 2011 roster.
"The best thing about baseball is you play the game with friends and they're friends for life," Geiser said. "I probably wouldn't be with baseball today if it wasn't for my family and teammates who, growing up, made the game fun."
Baseball was handed to Geiser at a young age by both his parents.
"Dad loved baseball. I picked it up and we've always been competitive. My mother still comes to ball games."
All part of what makes Sunday summer afternoons special in Bluffton.
"It's the small town; I remember as a kid you run down to the ball field and play ball," Geiser said.
That holds true forty years later.
"Especially after a ball game," Geiser said. "Sometimes you can see a dozen little kids playing."
Kupfer, who also grew up in Bluffton, has an almost identical story to Geiser's when discussing the history of Bluffton baseball.
"I remember watching baseball games on Sunday afternoons all my life growing up in Bluffton during the early years watching my dad and Terry's dad play together and soon after that it was Terry and myself along with brothers and cousins, uncles, etcetera," Kupfer said. "I remember the early days as a struggle to win games. We didn't have much area to draw players from. We all stuck together and in 1990 it paid off as Bluffton made our first trip to the State Tournament."
The 1990 visit was the first of two to the state tournament. Bluffton returned in 1995.
"I remember how excited we were when we won that game to go to state but I will always remember Terry saying to me how 'this is for our dads and those who played before us,'" Kupfer said. "How true that was."
Stories abound between the two men. Geiser recalled a famous game from the late eighties when the Braves lost a 22-inning ball game to Wolf Lake.
"It must have been 95 degrees and warmer on the field," Geiser said.
Tied at two after nine innings, the game went on and on until Wolf Lake scored on a bang-bang play at the plate in the 22nd inning.
Getting a good tale about Geiser's own exploits, at least from him, is nearly impossible. Geiser is a humble man who enjoys the game for reasons that matter most to him.
"The game is more important," he said. "I'd like to see these guys playing now get to a state tournament. I always told the kids and the people I play with the friends you make and fun you have during the game are more important.
I'm not high on personal accolades. The reason I played this long is because of the fans and family and teammates and kids I'm coaching. If they didn't make it fun I wouldn't be there."
The Geiser family can field an entire team pretty soon. Terry and his wife Donna had five sons and thanks to them they now have five daughters-in-law and 11 grandchildren. The Geiser name should be playing ball in Bluffton for some time.
"I have to thank Donna, my wife, she's been very understanding about it all," Gesier said. "I'd also like to thank my mother and father and brother and sisters and immediate family and a couple grandkids who wrote letters."
Like his father, Geiser spread the love of baseball to his sons. The six-pack of Geisers makes up close to half of the Braves' roster.
Of his sons, Dustin is the head coach at Frazee High School.
"I helped coach him in legion and high school ball. He's loved baseball since he was born. He knows the game and is very passionate about the game. Cody and Matthew are all passionate."
His son Kenny is the wrestling coach at Thief River Falls High School. Derek works for ACS and beat his father to retiring from baseball.
"It makes you very proud out there to see them coaching," Geiser said.
For now, Terry plans on continuing as the manager of the Braves.
"If they'll have me," he said. "I'm hoping when I retire Dustin will be head coaching somewhere."
Geiser speaks of the game, the Hall of Fame induction and his family with a reserved pride. He accepts the support and accolades he receives with a quiet humility. Geiser represents what really matters most about baseball and in speaking to him it comes off as how important it really is but how insignificant it is without his friends and family.
While he may try to reserve a lot of his feelings about being inducted into Minnesota Baseball's highest seat of honor, his friends and family know how much it means to him, as much as he does, and share those feelings quite differently from one who almost seems like he's managing from the dugout even when games aren't being played.
"I received the call from the committee on a Friday evening around 8 p.m.," Kupfer said. "My wife couldn't figure out what happened as I jumped out of my chair. The committee member wanted me to notify Terry that night and wondered if I knew where he was. As fate would have it, he was playing baseball in Henning that night so Karla and I drove to Henning and waited until the game was over and I did a small presentation in front of the dugout. Terry had no idea. It was awesome."
"It's a pretty cool deal," Geiser said.
The Minnesota Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place Saturday, September 17 at the Glen Carlson Hall of the St. Cloud Civic Center in St. Cloud.
Anyone interested in attending must have tickets in advance. Tim Kupfer is available for more information or visit http://www.mnamateurbaseballhof.com/.
"It will be an great night for all of area baseball but especially Bluffton baseball," Kupfer said.