Former Cavs manager reflects on career in new book

May 29, 2013

In his six decades involved in local baseball in Eau Claire, Glenn St. Arnault has only one regret.

Wisconsin State League

In his six decades involved in local baseball, Glenn St. Arnault has only one regret.

“I always had in the back of my mind that I would have liked to have had a shot to manage a pro club,” he said. “I’ve always had good talent, but I also feel I’m a pretty good baseball man.”

St. Arnault’s coaching record — which stretches from Little League through the Eau Claire Cavaliers over nearly 60 years — speaks for itself. And not just in wins and losses and championships.

Along with Diz Kronenberg and Harv Tomter, St. Arnault is generally credited with touching more young baseball lives than any others. For his efforts, he was one of the first inducted into the Eau Claire Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Although still involved in local Babe Ruth League ball, St. Arnault isn’t going to fulfill his dream of working in a pro dugout. But the popular 74-year-old has a wonderful and rewarding career to look back at.

Better than that, he has put it down on paper for everyone to enjoy.

“Play Ball,” a 160-page book of his recollections, has been his labor of love over the past four years and becomes available today at Volume One.

St. Arnault also reported that he will stage book signings June 4 and 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Chippewa Valley Museum and that books can be obtained by reaching him at home, 3718 Gables Court, 54701, phone 715-834-3597.

The book features editorial content, illustrations and clippings centering on the young men and their accomplishments with the numerous teams he has handled.

“People gave me the idea to write,” St. Arnault said. “They kept telling me, ‘You should write a book.’ “

Overall, it reaches all levels of city baseball beginning in 1954 when he took command of the East Side River Rats, a group of neighborhood youngsters playing in the City Rec League.

“Some kids didn’t play Little League so we threw a team together at Lee Street Playground that was our sandlot,” St. Arnault said.

“I always loved baseball as a kid growing up and wished I could’ve played Little League. I could hit and field but I was a pretty big guy and didn’t run all that fast. But I was a real good organizer.”

In 1957, St. Arnault, as an 18-year-old, not only got involved in Little League but was named the Eau Claire Braves’ first ambassador between the team and city teenagers.

He coached Little League three seasons through 1959 and also took an all-star team on the road.

He moved up to Babe Ruth in 1960 and coached for five years, taking teams to the state and regional tournaments and his 1964 Elks team won the city championship with a 15-1 record.

The next step was Post 53 American Legion baseball in 1965 and the first job was to hold a tag day to finance the purchase of balls and bats, as uniforms were the only equipment left over.

His Legion teams made progress each year, improving records from 37-7 in 1968 to 39-9 and finally 41-13 in 1970. The highlight, of course, were state championships won in 1969 and 1970.

“I don’t think you will see anything like that as far as all-around athletes are concerned,” he said of the 1969 and 1970 teams.

As a point of interest, he had all three city football quarterbacks in Gregg Bohlig of Memorial, Pete Koupal of Regis and Scott Maske of North. And one of his players — Tom Poquette — wound up with a major league career.

“Poquette was playing shortstop for us and I moved him to center field,” St. Arnault said. “The rest is history.”

In 1970, St. Arnault got together with a group that included Joe McCauley, long-time friend Dick Gannon, Gene Koupal and Roger Bohlig with the idea of starting a new city team.

“Pro baseball left town in 1962 and we had some great athletes to show off plus the fact that we had local college players to work with — that really helped,” St. Arnault.

The team was named the “Cavaliers” and a new and what proved to be the longest run of amateur baseball had begun and still continues to this day.

St. Arnault, who has worked at Powertex Group screen printing for 27 years, guided the Cavaliers very successfully from 1971 through their formative years and said the club drew 40,000 fans per year in the first three years.

He and assistant Gannon stepped aside in 1975 but returned for the 1977 and 1978 years. In 1978, St. Arnault hired Harv Tomter as a pitching coach and it was Tomter who took over the team the next year and carried on into the 2000s.

“The Cavaliers lasted longer than any program in the city of Eau Claire,” St. Arnault said. “We always played the best talent available and were very successful.”

In 1979 when son Greg was growing up, he went back to Little League at Manz Field and followed Greg through Little League and Babe Ruth League.

“We always fielded a team nobody wanted to play,” he said. “We drove them crazy with sound baseball.”

Success continued through those years and in his time with the Babe Ruthers, he was part of the group that built two new fields at Mt. Simon.

He went back to coach a young Post 53 Legion team in 1985. It was in competition with local Post 397, a team coached by Ken Eisenhuth that won a state title, but the young team did well at 19-16.

After a few years off, he went back to Little League at Fairfax Field in 1989 and served as a coach and motivator through 2004 and has worked in the same capacity with the Babe Ruth program since.

St. Arnault, a 1956 Regis High School graduate, is still involved with the Cavaliers as a member of the board of directors while wife Judy serves as treasurer.

The book touches on all of the above and includes a chapter on legendary umpire Ham Olive, who finished his career at Mt. Simon.

“I’ve always been positive working with the kids,” he said. “I always try to correct and instruct but never embarrass.”

St. Arnault admits it’s been a joy ride.

“I would say it’s been kind of fascinating to have lived and coached with so many kids, parents and administrators,” he said.

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