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Dave Meyer’s Fastpitch Journey
A Minnestoa Hall of Fame Nomination
When the Meyer family up and left the Twin Cities in 1972, settling in Harris, it was unbeknownst at the time that it would become one of the greatest family moves in Minnesota fastpitch history.
Now, just over five decades later, we are nominating a member of the Meyer family for induction in the Minnesota Sports Federation Fastpitch Softball Hall of Fame. Dave Meyer was just 12 years old when the Meyer family move changed his life and affected so many people as he grew older, continuing to this day.
Once in Harris, the Meyer family met their mailman, Stan Pietrick who just happened to be the mover and shaker for the local fastpitch league. While arriving at the Harris household Stan couldn’t help but notice a family of brothers out on the lawn having a good time. He stopped and chatted and before the conversation subsided he’d asked the boys if they’d be interested in playing in the league. Excited about the sudden opportunity to get involved, the boys eagerly said that they’d really like that chance.None of them had ever heard of fastpitch softball much less played it. Once in the league they quickly learned how much fun and excitement the game can generate but Dave’s enthusiasm quickly turned into a life-long love affair with a sport that at the time was in its heyday. Dave enjoyed everything about the game and every minute of his involvement. When the young players were asked by an older fella if they’d be interested in learning how to pitch, his hand eagerly shot skyward. That’s how Dave’s journey in the great game of fastpitch began.
Dave recalls that the first lesson centered around the aspects of getting legally onto the pitcher’s plate, how to stride out with the non-pivot foot and how the arm circle should look and work. “It was pretty basic and good luck really,” is how Dave described it.
It didn’t long for the young lad to catch on. He soon found himself filling in on the pitcher’s plate when the regular chucker failed to show up for a game. Dave was more than willing to get “thrown to the wolves.” As he recalls it, his first pitch nearly went over the backstop. He says he was going to have to put in much more time than he had been in an attempt to be able to actually pitch successfully. After that first time with the ball in his hand he decided to get serious about improving. He didn’t pitch in a game the rest of that first season but spent countless hours in the yard with his brother.
Harris had a great fastpitch program whereby young players could improve while playing with and against kids their own age. When the next year arrived Dave was ready. His hours of practice were paying off quickly. His team played 12 games and with Dave’s increasing mastery of the science of fastpitch pitching his team won nine of those 12 games. That was in 1974 when Dave was 13 years old. After the first game he ever won a stranger approached him and asked if he’d like to learn some new pitches. As it turned out the stranger was Bill Mobeck who was a Minnesota Hall of Fame pitcher. Bill was known for his ability to change speeds on batters so of course, stressed the importance of controlling hitters that way. Dave says he wasn’t able to learn Dick’s technique but it didn’t take him long to realize how important varying his tool bag which included changing speeds.
The following season Dave was 14 and really getting things down. He led his young team to an undefeated 12-0 season but also started pitching in the mens’ league where he won another nine of twelve games he pitched. During that season his rise balls started to lift after he discovered a way to throw it after working on a curve. He experimented with a variety of grips, finally settling on something after a great conversation with legendary lefty Ty Stofflet and seeing one that guy did to make a ball go up.
In his early years Dave said he filled his time playing for any team that needed help. One event that comes to mind when he was just 16 was a tournament in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin that he went to with the Schmidt brothers, Keith (15) and Bruce (17). Each of the three pitched a game as their team won the tournament with a teenage pitching staff. Dave pitched in many Wisconsin locales, all hotbeds of men’s fastpitch. Places with names such as Luck, Milltown, Wanderoos. Star Prairie and Roberts which were close to home but with great players. After high school graduation Dave attended college in the Twin Cities and would pitch for a number of teams in no less than three leagues while pitching in as many as 70 games per year and never winning fewer than 50. He just couldn’t get enough to soothe his appetite for the game. He also got the opportunity to play in White Bear, MN where many Harris players could be found. One team known as Fidelity Holmes was one key opponent he faced and beat with a 4-0 shutout. Dick Fick was a member of Fidelity Holmes and asked Dave to play with them in the ISC Travel League. Green Terrace out of Winona, MN was Dave’s first foe while wearing the Fidelity Holmes colors. Green Terrace was the defending AA state champions but Dave held them to a single run, winning 2-1 in extra innings. Another familiar team to Midwest fastpitch aficionados was All American Bar who had claimed the ISC World title in 1976. All American won the game 11-6 but even in a loss like that Dave knew that he wanted to play at that level.
Dave remembered the words from Mobeck about changing speeds and thought about that game against All American Bar. The pitcher on that team was Al Dewall. Dave says that in his first at-bat against Al he thought he’d been offered an off-speed rise ball. “Getting my butt kicked by them really kick-started me into improving with the off-speed pitch,” Dave quipped. He started experimenting with a variety of grips while working out in the gym at the college and developed a combination off-speed drop ball. When he used the same grip but when he created some space for his elbow to get past his hip, his search for an off-speed lifter was over. The rest is a lesson in soft-rise history. Just ask those who had to face him. He had the science of that pitch down pat.That pitch allowed Dave to take on the best hitters and teams in the world.
That rise also got him a spot on Nirico Construction led by Mark Aune, a team with an interesting group of players of whom those two guys were the only white players on the team. In 1986 the Happy Chef team had invited Nirico Construction to play in their invitational tournament. Their first team was against world renown Penn Corp of Sioux City. Iowa. Dave held the top team in the world to just two runs, losing 2-1. That game really made the two guys hunger for bigger things so they packed their bags and headed to Sioux City for the ISC World tournament to gauge the level of competitiveness among all the teams.They set their sights on being in the tournament in 1987 in Saskatoon. Saskatchewan. Nirico won the ISC State Tournament beating Happy Chef twice during the event. They were headed to the World Tournament where they would soon find out how tough it was to score runs once you were in the tourney.They went 1-2 and in 1988 in Decatur, Illinois went 0-2. The following year, 1989 Nircio was tied with Stewart Taylor Printing of Duluth in the travel league. They were pitted against each other in the final game. A berth in Kimberly was on the line. Stewart Taylor edged out Dave’s team and asked him to pitch for them at the world tournament. “Stewart Taylor had great hitters and we won our first two games,” Dave said. Penn Corp sent them to the loser’s bracket where they won three more games before losing, finishing 7th out of 48 teams. On the very next day Dave was back home playing for Nirico Construction in the ASA Major Men’s national in Midland, Michigan.
Dave moved to Duluth to play for Stewart Taylor Printing after the 89 season. “That team will always be the best team I ever played on,” he added. “I am very grateful to that team for giving me the opportunity to play for them. In 1990 at the ISC World Tournament in Victoria, BC the Printers finished in 9th place in the 48-team field.
Dave headed for New Zealand along with teammate Kasey Frank for a season of fastpitch “down under.” They were part of an all star tournament in New Zealand around Christmas time. Playing for a team out of Wellington they were part of winning the tourney championship.
About a year or so ago, Dave and I connected again. He remains intensely involved in the game. He is the pitching coach for the Superior High School girls’ fastpitch team where he mentors one of that state’s top junior pitchers. But that’s just part of his involvement in the game. Dave became a member of the USA Softball Coach pool when urged to apply by fastpitch legend Nick McCurry of Ashland, Ohio. Dave applied and was offered an assistant coaching position to work with the program’s young hurlers. He works with the Under 18 team on the national team.
A while back Dave and I were chatting about things from the past when he told me that in 1997 at the national tournament he met a North Dakota Hall of Fame pitcher by the name of Ollie Fidler after Fidler had watched Dave pitch. The Hall of Famer told Dave that he really liked what he saw and had a great time watching Dave work in the circle.
For a 12-year old kid who had no idea that such a great game even existed, that move from the Twin Cities to Harris, Minnesota was the first door to open the world to Dave. He’s now traveled a lot of miles to a lot of ball yards in a lot of countries and he will be headed for even more with his new gig on the national team coaching staff.
Just as important as the information here-to-fore and below is thi:.In preparing this nomination letter, I contacted several people who played with Dave and against him. The bottom line with Dave Meyer is that he has always been a great player but also knows and demonstrates behaviors and attributes of being a great teammate.
Now for the numbers. Here are some facts about Dave’s long career.
* At the age of 19 Dave threw his first perfect game against the top team in the Harris League
* In 1980 he lost a 17-inning thriller in the Class A state tournament to Longines Watches out of White Bear Lake, a team with many former Harris players on it.
* In1981 he beat State Champion Green Terrace as well as runner-up Fidelity Homes
* In 1986 he pitched in that aforementioned 2-1 loss to Penn Corp, allowing just two hits and no earned runs
* Starting in 1989 he played in nine ISC world tournaments including a 7th and 9th place finish
* He led his team to the Minnesota State ISC title in 1987 and 1994.
* He led his team to the ISC Minnesota Travel League title in 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1992
* He led his team to the ASA State title in 1992 and 1993 and again in 1996 and 1997
* in 1989 he was a member of the ASA “AA” regional championship
* At the age of 36 in 1997 he pitched his team to the runner up spot at the ASA Class A national and was named an All American breaking the record for the most strikeouts in a 13-inning game with 28
*At 56 years old in 2017 he pitched his team to the NAFA Runner up spot and was the Most Valuable Pitcher and his team set a record for having the worst team batting average for a team in the final.
*Dave once pitched all 24 innings of a game for All American Bar that went that long against Fargo Moose in the ASA regional.
* He pitched a 30-inning game and struck out 30 - one per inning
* He logged a 17-inning game as an 18-year-old in the MN State ASA Tournament
* He once struck out 19 of 21 outs in a 7-inning game
* He once struck out 28 in a 13 inning game
* In the NAFA Masters level of the game Dave’s teams have”
* Finished Runner-up in the National Tournament in 2016 in the 45 and Over
* In the 55+ he has been named All World
* In 2020 He pitched his team to the ASA 50+ National title
* In 2021 he pitched his team to the 60+ National title
He is still going strong and fully involved in the game at the local, state, national and international stage