If you know where Coon Valley is then you probably know someone from the Fencl family whose roots in Coon Valley span many decades and whose love of sports continues to occupy a big space in their lives.
History Alive Project founders Dave and Ruth Amundson recently interviewed Mike Fencl and learned that he is a charter member of the Coon Valley Area Baseball Association (CVABA) and since its inception in 1996 he continues to be very active with its growth, while also keeping its legacy alive.
Information from a Coon Valley Centennial Supplement, published in l949, revealed the village got its first baseball team in 1899. According to Fencl the original field was located in a pasture on land owned by Carl Anderson (known as the old Bothne farm). The current baseball field (Coon Valley Veterans Memorial Park) was built in the 1940s.
“My dad helped to install those lights for the present field in June of 1949,” Fencl said.
He added that many families are a part of Coon Valley’s long baseball history including brothers, Merv and Gordon Henley; brothers, Oscar and Leif Larson; “Boob” and “Chic” Nelson; and most recently, all three of the Servais boys played in Coon Valley. Scott Servais moved on to the major league and is the current manager of the Seattle Mariners.
“Many people made Coon Valley what it is today, not just the ones I mentioned,” Fencl said. “At one time or another just about every community in this part of Wisconsin and perhaps everywhere else in America, had local baseball teams. Most of the teams were men and boys who maybe never had a chance to make it to a higher level but played because they loved the game and their communities. It’s about families more than individuals,” said Fencl.
Fencl considers himself more of a care taker of CVABA historical items, more than a collector, noting that as a long his wife (Marla) finds room to store things that he will continue to collect more old baseball stuff. He has many old baseball photos taken by his father in the 1920s and 1930s.
“Dad was an amateur photographer, along with my brother, Don. I have grainy 8mm films, coupled with old scorebooks and even treasured bats, which were made by a former team member and autographed baseballs in my collection,” Fencl said.
He added that putting names with the photos has been a challenge, but the research is what makes it interesting.
Retired since 2005, Mike Fencl taught Social Studies for 31 years and coached football for 19 years at North Crawford. He was a volunteer coach for the Westby Norsemen grid iron teams for 13 years; served on the Coon Valley Fire Department and First Responders for 27-years as a third generation member and he continues to give his time for numerous other community organizations.
So as long as Fencl and his family continue to be in the line-up of the Coon Valley baseball legacy, this community’s past time is in good hands, especially with younger Fencl offspring being added to team rosters.