By Jared Schmeltzer
On Saturday, July 8, the Merrill Baseball Hall of Fame inducted four new individual members as well as one historic team. The ceremony took place at Athletic Park in Merrill right before Post 46 played their first game of the Merrill tournament. The fve inductees were Chris Berndt, David Klug, Harlan Rothmeyer, Jared Sanders and the 1976 & 1979 Merrill Giants.
The 1976 & 1979 Merrill Giants were considered one of the best teams in the Wisconsin Baseball Association. From 1976-1980 they played in the state championship, winning it in 1976 and 1979. In the 1976 season two come-from-behind wins for the Giants allowed them to make the finals where they would defeat Lake Mason 11-0. The 1979 season was another dominant one for the Giants as they won their way to the state finals with ease and took home the state finals win against Hayward 5-4 in a 12 inning game. In the five year period of the Giants making it to the WBA Championship, the Giants had an outstanding tournament record of 22 wins and 3 losses.
Chris Berndt played three years for the Merrill Bluejays Baseball team. He lettered all three years and earned All Conference honors in 1994. He also got the honor of playing for the North Team in the American Legion All Star Game in 1994 held at the Brewers County Stadium in Milwaukee. Chris went on to play college baseball at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point from 1996-1999. While at UWSP, Chris played in the 1997 Division 3 College World Series and earned All WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) team honors from 1997-1999, and was named WIAC Player of the Year in 1999.
David Klug was born in Merrill and graduated from Merrill High School. He later went to UW Oshkosh and became a teacher and a coach in the Oshkosh area while still coming back to Merrill for many summers to coach in his hometown. From 1972 until 1979 Dave was the coach of the Merrill Giants in the Lincoln County Baseball League. As a coach and sometimes player, he led the Giants to more than 10 league championships. Thanks to Dave’s leadership, the Giants went to five consecutive state championships and won two of them.
Harlan Rothmeyer began his baseball career at eight years old playing Little League and at only 11 years old started playing on the adult County League team. When he was only 15 Harlan hit his first home run on the County League team. Harlan was selected to eight county all star teams in his 11 years playing and was one of the star players on the Beacon Bar team that won back to back Wisconsin Baseball Association state championships in 1974 and 1975. Harlan was a three year starter for the Merrill High School baseball team and also played American Legion during that time. While playing Legion in 1970 he recorded a .455 batting average which he followed up with a .444 batting average in 1971. In 1972 he was named MVP of the team and was selected to the Legion all-star game held at County Stadium in Milwaukee.
Jared Sanders had a long baseball career filled with many accomplishments. He graduated from Merrill High School and went on to play Division 1 baseball on a full scholarship to Crowder College. In his time at Crowder College, Jared won the Most Promising Freshman award and was selected for the All-State team from Region 16 in Missouri. Jared also played for the University of Minnesota where he won the BIg Ten regular season as well as the Big Ten Tournament three times and hit a game winning home run against Iowa to win the Big Ten just after graduating from the U of M. Jared would later be asked to join the MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers.
The ceremony was topped off with the inductees throwing out a first pitch to players of the Merrill Post 46 team.