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ISSUE 118 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/29/2005

Early morning rivalry

By Sara Perelli-Minetti
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 29, 2005

If you happen to be awake at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, direct your gaze down to the fields behind Thorson Hall. There, you’ll find about 100 members of various musical ensembles cheering, shouting and running as they engage in the longtime tradition of early morning softball.

Dating back to the mid-1970s, the tradition of early morning softball is little known outside the ensembles which participate in it.

The teams consist of the St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf Orchestra, St. Olaf Choir and two combined teams of Norseman Band and Philharmonia, Cantorei and Chapel Choir. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, four of these teams gather in the wee hours of the morning to play about an hour’s worth of softball.

Throughout the season, which begins after spring break and continues through the rest of second semester, all the teams play one another, with the season culminating in the “broken bat” game.

The broken bat game is played between the St. Olaf Band and the St. Olaf Orchestra, and dates back almost as long as the tradition of early morning softball itself has existed. Both Dr. Timothy Mahr and professor Steven Amundson, conductors of the band and orchestra respectively, have been known to appear at this standoff.

Last spring, the “bandies” overcame the “orchies” to clinch the victory, ending a five-year run of victories for the orchestra squad.

“Early morning softball is a great way to feel like a member of the ensemble or choir outside of rehearsing or performing music,” said Josh Cameron ’05, a trumpet player and coach of the bandie team. “You develop a different sense of teamwork. We are all still working together towards a common goal, and everyone needs to do their part, but the goal is no longer making beautiful music, it's to make the other team wish they would've slept in.”

Even though Cameron admits a desire to be competitive, he never lets that interfere with the good nature of the game.

“We're all generally very sportsman-like in our conduct,” he said.

Carl Holmquist ‘05, another trumpet player and coach, as well as president of the band, has a similar take on the early morning antics of the ensembles.

“You'd be surprised at the level of talent on the field,” Holmquist said. “Massive homeruns, diving catches, aggressive base running, etc. – but the great thing about softball is that anyone can come and play. Though we like to be competitive, we [the coaches] always want to make sure that everyone is having fun. If people are willing to get up at six-thirty a.m. to play, we have to make it worth their while.”

So, why the early time slot?

“We just do it at six-thirty a.m. because we're too busy with rehearsals and everything else during the evenings ... and because we're all just a little bit nuts,” Cameron said.

The final tradition of early morning softball is that after each game, all the ensembles troop over to Buntrock to enjoy breakfast together before 8 a.m. classes begin. Teams hand out awards for the day’s game, such as the orchestra’s “donut award” for the most valuable player.

Overall, early morning softball is about having fun with fellow musicians in a non-musical context. Holmquist cites the fact that softball actually gets music students out of the music building as one its main appeals.

So, if you’re in an ensemble and are deterred by the 6:30 a.m. wake up call, go to bed early and get out there and play.

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