A North Star comes full circle
Havre North Stars' manager Danny Wirtzberger gives a sign to a hitter during an American Legion baseball game last week in Havre. Wirtzberger has been a part of the legion baseball program for years, as a player and an assistant coach. But now he's thriving as a first-year manager.
Havre's Danny Wirtzberger isn't new to the sport of baseball, and he isn't new to the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball program either. In fact, after playing for the North Stars for a number of years, Wirtzberger has come full circle, being named the head coach at the beginning of the 2012 season.
Wirtzberger took over the North Stars' program this year, taking on North Star baseball from the head coaching position for the v
Havre North Stars' manager Danny Wirtzberger watches his team from the third-base coaching box during a recent American Legion baseball game in Havre.
ery first time. And while he never set out to be the head coach of the North Stars, everything seems to be falling into place, and the team is finding ample success.
"I am very happy to be working for the Havre Youth Baseball board," Wirtzberger said. "And representing Havre in Legion baseball. When this job opened up, I had so much respect for this program because it gave me so much. It gave me a college scholarship to play baseball at Jamestown College, and this was a great opportunity to give back to the program and community. Also, I have that competitive edge, and I think with help from the community, and both of my assistant coaches, Dick Fuzesy and Tony Vigliotti, that we can have a lot of success. I think we have the ball rolling in the right direction."
But this summer isn't Wirtzberger's first coaching gig.
Currently, Wirtzberger coaches the Havre Middle School track team, and is an assistant football coach for the Havre High Blue Ponies. But he was also an offensive assistant for the Montana State University-Northern Lights football program for five years, coaching the receivers, offensive line and tight ends in that five-year span. But as far as baseball goes, Wirtzberger also coached the Havre Comets in 2006 and 2007, as well as assisted the North Stars under then head coach Steve Fanning in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
And if the North Stars can find the type of success Wirtzberger has found in the past as an athlete and a coach, there is a bright future in store for Havre baseball.
As a high school standout in football and baseball, Wirtzberger was able to go to Jamestown College to do both. In 2002 he played both college baseball and football, but then focused his talents to the football field in 2003. From there, he transferred to MSU-Northern, where he played two more years of football as receiver and offensive captain. And to pile on even more success, after all of Wirtzberger's coaching endeavors, he may have had his best couple of seasons the last two years at HHS. As the offensive coordinator, for the Blue Ponies, Wirtzberger's offense broke and set 27 MHSA records over the last two seasons.
But even with all of that history, it may have been Wirtzberger's legion baseball playing days that has set him off on his newest adventure.
Wirtzberger played Legion ball from 2000-2003 and made the All-Star game in 2001 and 2002. In 2000 he was a left fielder and helped the team to a fourth-place finish at state. And in 2001, as a center fielder, he helped lead the team to a second-place at state. In 2002 Wirtzberger made his move into the infield as a shortstop, and the North Stars earned another top state finish, finishing third this time around.
"It was fun," Wirtzberger said. "And Mickey (Williams) was just a great coach. He taught very fundamentally sound baseball and I am just lucky to have been coached by him, and to have experienced the knowledge that he has. Between him, my dad (Cal Wirtzberger) and my grandpa (Russ Evans), they have molded my knowledge of baseball, and I wouldn't be anywhere without those three guys.
"I have great family support at home," Wirtzberger added. "And if I was going to coach, I was going to do this right. I have hired great assistant coaches, and with the great family support I thought I should give this a shot."
With Vigliotti and Fuzesy assisting, and with his wife, Katie (Miller) Wirtzberger being the anchor of his support at home, coach Wirtzberger has a good thing in the works with the North Stars. He took over the team from Williams, assisted by Andy Smith and Vigliotti and credits that staff with a lot of the success this season. Wirtzberger's infant daughter Blake, and three year old son Tripp, who is already serving as the bat boy, also pitch in their support when needed.
"I inherited a pretty good team," Wirtzberger said. "Mickey (Williams) is the best coach in the state, bar none, and everybody around the state knows it. He really taught this team the fundamentals and I am just hammering it home. With the coaches we have now, and the support group that I have at home, we are just molding these kids to be the best that they can be."
Coach Wirtzberger's support and help extends even further, including a handful of former North Stars who frequent practice in an attempt to keep the program successful and thriving.
Ryan Evans, Ricky Brown, Garret Hanson, Kyle Sheppard and brother, Patch Wirtzberger have all pitched in this season and have added a lot of positive input to the practices.
"I strongly believe that you have to use your recourses," Wirtzberger said. "Ricky Brown has come up to practice to help us on many occasions, and he played college. Ball. Garrett Hanson was a college catcher and Patch was a college catcher. But our program wouldn't be anywhere close to where I wanted it to be if all those guys didn't come up and help. Those past North Stars that want to come up and help play a big role, and I am very thankful for that."
While Wirtzberger continues to play a role in Havre athletics, he also continues to advance his career in Havre education.
After teaching the fourth grade at Sunnyside Elementary for five years, Wirtzberger is moving on to the next chapter. After earning his Masters degree at Montana State University for Educational Leadership, next year Wirtzberger will move from Sunnyside to the Robins Administration building, becoming the Instructional Technology Coach, helping teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms.
"This is a path to get to the leadership position," Wirtzberger said. "But technology is something that has always grabbed my attention, and I have always thought that it has enthralled the students a little bit more, so it is something I have used in the past and I am excited to share some of those other thoughts with other teachers."
If Havre is lucky, Wirtzberger will maintain a position in the school district, as well as several coaching positions in the Havre area. He has proven to be an asset in the community, and is already helping to mold the North Stars in just his first season as head coach. The North Stars have four home games left this summer.