Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Baseball program originator enters hall of fame
Torstenson's latest accolade for his roles in Legion, Genoa City

by Steve Targo

October 04, 2012

A MOMENT OF pride for Stan Torstenson, Randall Township, was when he was inducted into the American Legion Hall of Fame.
RANDALL — Numerous awards line the walls and shelves in Stan Torstenson's den.

Over the years, the 74-year-old has been recognized for his work as a high school baseball coach and his accomplishments in business, the latter of which prompted Kenosha County officials to declare April 5 Stanley A. Torstenson Day.

Then in August, Torstenson was inducted into the Wisconsin American Legion Baseball Association's Hall of Fame. Being involved with the Legion for more than 36 years, Torstenson is one of the people who started Genoa City Recreation Inc. He continues to serve as president of this organization, believed to be the first of its type to bring youth baseball to the area.

So when Torstenson talked about the weekend he spent near Milwaukee for his induction into the Legion Hall of Fame, it would be expected that a man who has been in baseball his whole life discuss the all-star game played as part of the festivities. But it appeared that Torstenson almost got choked up when asked what he will remember the strongest about his induction — which, for a man with a roomful of awards in his house, must be somewhat rare.

"I got the chance to speak to the kids," Torstenson said. "Because of where I was at and what I had done, they kind of looked up to me."

A coach and a commissioner

Originally from Darlington, Torstenson went to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to obtain his teaching degree. His first job was teaching industrial arts in Shullsburg, which also provided the setting for his coaching debut.

Torstenson said growing up, he was small as a kid.

"I didn't play a lot of anything," he said. "I wasn't big enough."

But he played baseball, technically speaking.

"I was on the team," Torstenson said, adding he spent a lot of time on the bench.

Rather than let that discourage him from the sport or being a coach, it seemed to inform his career. He said it taught him an important lesson.

"You learn through experience," Torstenson said.

In 1969 -- the year the Shullsburg High School Pep Club gave him a coaching award — he became an assistant coach in Wilmot. He retired in 1978 and started a Legion team in 1976. Three years later, he was on the Wisconsin board of directors for the Legion's nationwide program.

Torstenson was elected commissioner of the state's Legion baseball program in 1992. It was a position he would hold for 22 years.

"In 1992, we had 126 teams," he said. "Now, there are 221. We were ranked as one of the top programs in the nation."

The Genoa City program

Perhaps the largest feather in Torstenson's cap is the recreation program, which he founded in 1970 with Jim Krisik.

Torstenson said Krisik and him both had boys who were 9 years old.

"We built the program off these kids," Torstenson said. "We wanted something for the youth to do in the summertime."

According to Torstenson, there were 69 kids in the program that year. Today, there are 475, and they hail from as far away as Elkhorn and Antioch, Ill.

"You're probably going to ask me how long I'll do this," Torstenson said. "As long as I'm healthy and I want to get the lights paid off."

He's referring to the lights in Krisik Park, arguably one of the nicest baseball parks in Genoa City, if not southern Walworth county. The park lights cost more than $100,000, according to Torstenson, the and program is paying for them. The program also owns Krisik Park and three other fields. The program costs nothing to the taxpayers of Genoa City, he said.

Torstenson said four years ago, he suffered a heart attack. This prompted him to sell his longtime business, Stan's Lumber of Twin Lakes.

It also inspired him to tell his fellow rec program board of directors — all of whom played baseball in the program when they were younger — about his posthumous wishes.

"I told them, if I die tomorrow, don't give this program to Genoa City, or to any city, because it wouldn't be taken care of the way we're taking care of it," Torstenson said. "We're paying for all the expenses."

And, with a fifth field for 5- and 6-year-olds to play Little League to be unveiled soon, it appears he wouldn't have it any other way.