Don Goracke of Morris will be inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, Sept. 17. The program's 49th annual banquet will be held at the St Cloud Civic Center.
Goracke has been involved with baseball for more than six decades as a player, coach, manager, teacher, and mentor to baseball players in the community. Goracke fell in love with the sport in 1947 at age 12 during his first season with the Chokio Midgets.
"It was love at first sight," said Goracke.
He went on to play Legion baseball in Chokio from 1948-53.
As a 15 year old, Goracke joined the Chokio adult league playing third base. One of his fondest memories of the game occurred during those amateur baseball days.
"I played with my brother for one year," he explained. "That was a special time for me."
His brother, Cliff, played catcher for him in 1958.
Goracke played the 1957 season with Morris, when the team qualified for the state tournament, but were defeated by the eventual champion, Braham.
After playing with his brother in '58, Goracke returned to Morris where he finished out his town ball career.
He also played with the Morris Legends 35 and older league. In his first season, 1996, the team won the Class C Championship. The next season, Morris took the Class B championship and was runner-up in the Class AA tourney in 1998.
He has coached at all levels of the game: T Ball, Little League, Babe Ruth, VFW, Legion, high school, university, amateur, as well as baseball camps.
Goracke coached Little League for 25 years, winning one championship.
For four years he coached Babe Ruth baseball.
"My biggest thrill was being the pitching coach for a Morris Babe Ruth team that played in a Babe Ruth World Series in Pine Bluff, Ark."
During that time he coached his son Brent and witnessed him pitching a near perfect 1-0 game.
Goracke was a pitching coach for the Morris VFW for five seasons. Two of the teams he worked with qualified for the state tournament.
He was also the pitching coach for the Morris Legion team for 17 years, including the 1996 team that was runner up at a national tournament.
"A proud moment was when our pitcher/catcher Jake Eiler was named MVP in the tournament."
He has been the pitching coach for the Morris Area varsity team for 20 years. Two of those teams qualified for state tournament play.
Goracke also was pitching coach at the University of Minnesota, Morris for 15 years. Two of those teams competed in regional tournaments.
Goracke has worked with area youth through clinics sponsored by Morris Area Community Education, Morris Area High School, UMM, and Minnesota State University, Mankato.
He has also conducted youth player clinics in the communities of Browns Valley, Barrett, Hancock, Chokio, and Glenwood.
Goracke has conducted player physical and mental training sessions for student/athletes at Morris, Chokio and Hancock High Schools, as well as provided mental side of sports presentations for UMM teams and coaches' training classes.
He has been a personal coach for college baseball and high school softball players and provided training support for various softball clinics.
This past season, Goracke was an assistant coach for the UMM women's softball team.
When it's not baseball season, Goracke can be found in the gym helping coach basketball, too.
He has coached elementary boys' and girls' basketball teams and has been an assistant basketball coach for Morris Area High School basketball boys' and girls' teams at the varsity and junior varsity levels for 18 years.
He still finds times to do other community service activities outside of his volunteer coaching.
He has been a member and chair of the Morris Park Board and was instrumental in changing the Pomme de Terre park from a state owned to a city owned land. He also helped develop accesses and trails, camping sites, and the 'Adopt a Park' program, as well as the installation of lights on baseball and softball fields at six sites.
Goracke is a member of the Morris Lions, having served as Director, little league program adviser, and implemented the 'Merle Felstul Leadership Award' program for high school student/athletes. He received the Lions' Melvin Jones Award.
He has been a member and chair of the St. Mary's School Board and parish church council.
He has also been involved with the Morris Baseball Association, working on general improvements to facilities, a new stadium, installing dugouts, and score boards at ball fields.
As a member of the Morris Little League, Goracke was a member of the board that initiated the beginning of the Little League and served as coach and commissioner.
Goracke said he is overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition.
"I feel in awe about the whole thing," he said. "I wasn't playing ball to get this honor."
Besides a genuine love for the game, Goracke has dedicated much of his life to the sport of baseball because of the people he works with.
"I do enjoy the relationships you establish with players, families, coaches, and parents," he explained. "It's a real pleasure and a lot of enjoyment."