It appears that love for longtime Jasper and Pipestone teacher/coach Lyle Gillen continues unabated.
The 31-season (31 baseball, 20 wrestling, 17 volleyball and two football) coaching veteran was recently recognized for his tireless efforts by the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association as the recipient of the 2023 Jim Dimick Retired Coaches Award at the organization’s annual banquet, Jan. 21 in Minneapolis.
“I think it’s called the old timers award,” joked Gillen. “Rick (Zollner, longtime baseball skipper in Pipestone) nominated me and it’s quite an honor; I’m thankful to be recognized.”
While Gillen is quick to deflect praise and downplay the award, Zollner – who was mentored by Gillen in the early stages of his coaching career in Pipestone – doesn’t see the award as being a pat on the back to coaches who simply endured decades within their programs.
“To me this award is a way to recognize coaches who put in a lot of time, had good programs and helped raise good kids, but didn’t necessarily make it to the state tournament year in and year out,” he said. “Pat Shaughnessy from Worthington was the other recipient of the Jim Dimick Award… same thing there. These are guys have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into their programs and into those kids playing on their teams.”
Make no mistake, though, Gillen’s Quartzsiters were regularly a team to be reckoned with year in and year out – qualifying Jasper for the state tournament in 1974.
“Being a smaller school we were always competitive, no matter who we played, and I’m pretty proud of that,” Gillen said. “In 1974 we played the last year of one-class baseball, and we were fortunate enough to be one of the eight teams to make it to state tournament… started a freshman at shortstop if I remember correctly. We had some really good kids back then; those teams had a lot of fun and the players did everything we asked of them. I’m very blessed to have coached and taught them for so many years.”
And coaches too, as Gillen worked closely with Zollner in his early seasons coaching various levels of baseball in Jasper and Pipestone.
“When Lyle became the varsity coach in Pipestone, he hired me as an assistant in charge of the seventh and eighth-grade teams – both of them, alone,” Zollner recalled. “I had some 40 kids out for the two teams and Lyle would help me organize practices and help me with what to do with them at that level.
“And he always had a solid program when he was in Jasper. Jasper was a pretty good little baseball town, only one level when he went to state in 1974. Lyle’s teams always had good pitching and good defense. If he happened to have some guys who could put the ball in play, they were really competitive. Of course, they always had to get past the Pipestones and Luvernes to qualify for the tournament, which is why an award like this is so meaningful.”