Baseball: ACGC Scholars Fill Big Shoes – West Central Tribune

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ATWATER – As the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City baseball team heads to Kingery Field on game day, head coach Chris Fellows hopes to emulate the success the field’s namesake has had as a coach- leader of the Falcons.

After four years as a junior high school coach with the ACGC, Fellows is in his first year as the university’s head coach. He replaced Mike Kingery, an Atwater High School legend, former major league player and head coach of the Falcons for six years.

That tenure included a trip to the state in 2021, the ACGC’s first in 20 years. When the Falcons traveled to the Class AA State Tournament in St. Cloud, Fellows was there as an assistant coach.

A self-proclaimed baseball player, Fellows hopes a repeat of the state is possible with seven of the team’s starters returning from last season.

“With eight seniors this year and six starting last year, they were really used to the way Mike did things,” Fellows said. “They were very open-minded which is a very good thing and so far so good.

“There were transitions where it was sometimes stressful. But overall, I think the transition was good.

The Falcons are still trying to find their footing in the first month of the season. They are 6-3 overall and 4-3 in the Minnesota Central Conference after a double split with Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa on Monday.

ACGC baseball head coach Chris Fellows, left, instructs his players on the basics, including senior Logan Straumann, 11, during a Minnesota Central Conference game against BBE on Monday 2 May 2022 at Kingery Field in Atwater.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

But as the ACGC seeks consistency, the players support the Fellows.

“He definitely knows his stuff,” Falcons senior Jack Peterson said. “It’s a bit different to have a new head coach; we’ve had Mike all these years and he knows so much about the game. To have a different guy, it takes a bit of time for the team to get used to it.

“But I feel like we’ve adapted really well to (Fellows) and I think he really knows what he’s doing.”

Fellows played high school baseball in Ortonville under his father Jon Fellows, who was inducted into the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019.

“My dad was a head coach for over 30 years,” Chris said. He also coached the Ortonville Rox amateur baseball team on and off from 2005 to 2018. He currently plays for the Atwater Chuckers. “I always wanted to be a head coach.”

Chris then played for Division III baseball at Concordia-Moorhead as a left-handed pitcher.

Compared to Kingery’s experience as a positional player – an outfielder in the pros – Chris Fellows relies on his experience as a pitcher to improve the team’s arms.

But overall, Fellows said his and Kingery’s philosophy on the game were quite similar. Players struggled to find a big difference between their coaching styles.

“I would say they’re very similar, just for fellows who picked up stuff from Kingery last year,” senior Jaxon Behm said.

Said Fellows, “Mike was really, really good at (coaching transition) and was a great mentor to me as well. … For the most part, Mike and I are quite similar.

The Falcons are still producing points at a high rate, averaging 6.7 per game. Last season, the powerhouse ACGC offense, led by Mike’s son, Josh Kingery, averaged 8.6 points per game. With Josh graduating, this season’s team had to manufacture more leads.

“I’m more of a small ball situation type, whereas Mike was more of a free swinger at times,” Fellows said.

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ACGC freshman Jaxon Drange (middle) waits for the ball as BBE’s Will Van Beck slides into second base during a Minnesota Central Conference game Monday, May 2, 2022 at Kingery Field in Atwater. Heading into Tuesday, the Falcons are 6-3 this season.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

On the bench, Fellows takes a high-energy approach, a trait he learned as a physical education teacher in elementary school. And he made it a point to keep the team together.

“We are a group of tough seniors, you might say; we have our own opinions,” Peterson said. “He is definitely doing a good job of holding us all accountable. He expects a lot from us and expects us to be good men on and off the pitch.

“The friendships and trust that we developed last season,” Behm added, “all that friendship and trust is still there.”

That accountability worked both ways and it was on full display during the doubleheader against BBE.

After suffering an 8-6 loss in Game 1, Fellows rallied the team and wanted them to win the nightcap for themselves, not just to assuage their frustrations over the loss.

“It kindles the fire, no doubt,” Behm said. “That’s what we need right now is that fire.”

After a tough sixth inning in Game 1, Peterson approached Fellows asking him to address the team. The Fellows left the group alone, watching them gather around each other.

After suffering the loss in Game 1, the ACGC rallied in Game 2 for a 2-1 win.

“That’s what coaches always want. We want players to be coaches as well,” Fellows said. “That’s the great thing about players like Jack and Logan (Straumann); they teach the younger ones and pick on them if things don’t go well. … It’s encouraging to see them become leaders.

May will be a whirlwind month with a busy schedule due to postponements from April. Before the end of the month, Fellows and the Falcons hope to bring another section title to Kingery Field.

“There are high expectations with seven of the nine starters returning,” Fellows said. “They are great baseball players. There were a few mistakes here and there early on that cost us a few ball games. But when things start, I have the utmost confidence that we’ll be with anyone in the state.

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