Dwight Walvatne proud to represent Ashby in his induction into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame
Ashby's Dwight Walvatne will be inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame on Sept. 18, in St. Cloud.
Ashby’s Dwight Walvante was excited to get back up to Canada this September after missing out on duck hunting last year. But it looks like he’s going to wait a little longer.
Walvatne received a call from Warren Nelson, his old high school principal and longtime friend. That was when he found out his 29 years of playing amateur baseball got him inducted into the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I guess you have to get nominated by somebody, and they have to send in a bunch of letters to make this happen,” Walvatne said. “I was running a skid steer when he called me and asked what I was doing on Sept. 18. I told him I’m going duck hunting in Canada, and he said, ‘No, you’re not. Not this year.’”
Walvatne will join six other accomplished amateur baseball players from around the state at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud for the induction ceremony.
“I was overwhelmed when I found out,” Walvatne said. “I didn’t think this would happen. I played amateur ball on this field in Ashby for 29 years. I don’t know for sure, but I got to play over 500 games.”
In his early playing days, Walvatne played at shortstop. But as time went on, he transitioned into a mainstay at first base.
“I was average at best at shortstop,” he said. “I always felt more comfortable playing at first base. I guess I belonged there. Never did I think it would turn into something like this. You don’t play amateur baseball to get into a hall of fame. You play because you love it, and I love this game.”
Walvatne grew up seven miles away from Ashby in Dalton, but he never pictured himself wearing any other colored jersey than the maroon and gold.
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I played for the Fergus Falls Otters because I was in their school district,” Walvatne said. “I played some varsity, but mostly junior varsity. Halfway through my junior year, I enrolled in Ashby and came down here for school. It’s where I always wanted to be.”
Coming out of high school, Walvatne got a job at the Grant County Sheriff’s office as a deputy. He later was elected as the sheriff and served for 22 years. Walvante was reelected five times. One thing always stayed consistent in his life, and that’s baseball.
“I’ve been playing baseball in Ashby since 1969,” Walvatne said. “It’s the greatest game around. You have to be thinking to be a baseball player. It’s a team sport. It’s a situational game, and you have to make adjustments. Baseball has been good to me.”
Amateur baseball is an opportunity to keep playing the game at a competitive level past high school and college. In small towns around the state, rivalries grow with a high level of respect attached to it. Some of Walvatne’s best memories and friends come from his most competitive opponents.
“Jim Norby used to pitch for Evansville, and I had to bat against him for 10 years,” Walvatne said. “He’s one of my assistant coaches (for Ashby’s Legion baseball team). He was a heck of a pitcher. We always had battles. It was always a battle when we were playing against other teams, but you always shake hands after the game. Then you retire, and they become your friends. Guys from Millerville, Kensington, Urbank and all of the teams are my friends now. We went at it pretty good when we were young.”
Even though his playing days are over, Walvatne has yet to hang up the Ashby jersey. He spends his time coaching his nephews, Carson and Cater Spangler. In 2019, he coached the Ashby Babe Ruth 15U baseball team to a third place finish at the state tournament.
This summer, Walvatne is coaching the Ashby Legion baseball team.
“He loves it, and I don’t think he’d rather do anything else than be out here with us,” Noah Johnson said on Sunday after winning the West-Central North Sub-District championship. “We love having Dwight out here. It’s a blast being with him, and he knows a lot about the game. I’ve had him as a coach since sixth grade. He’s been with us ever since.”
Walvante has looked back on his life through the sport of baseball, and he thinks fondly of the experiences he’s had.
“The size of the town doesn’t matter when it comes to producing good baseball players,” Walvatne said. “I’ve seen so many of them from the area. Everybody is proud of the town they’re from. They’re proud of their uniform. The hall of fame asked me to send them a uniform, and that’s just so cool to me. Doing this in Ashby means everything to me. I remember when I was in Dalton, I dreamt of the day I could put on an Ashby uniform. I got my chance, and I loved every second of it.”