Reusse: Onetime overworked Gophers punter nears career end as baseball coach

Normandale Community College opened in the fall of 1968 and soon became a mecca for junior college athletics. There were legendary coaches, such as brothers-in-law Ron Lievense Sr. in men's basketball and Fred Moyer in football.

What Normandale coaches had in common with most junior college coaches was surviving on minimal dollars from the school. When Normandale announced in November 1995 it would be dropping its six sports (football, volleyball, baseball, softball, men's basketball and women's basketball), the combined operating budget was $113,000.

The last athletic director, and only briefly, was Paul Blanchard. He had come back to coach baseball in 1993. And there was this story humorously touching on finances for his program:

"Our annual spring trip was to Kansas, to Labette C.C. in Parsons, Kansas," Blanchard said. "We stayed in the same discount hotel with a McDonald's next door. We had a deal, and they would fill up our cooler with Kool-Aid before we left for the ballpark.

"For the trip, we put our baseballs in that cooler. First morning there, I said to a freshman, 'Grab the cooler out of that second van, take it over to McDonald's and they'll fill it with Kool-Aid.'

"He does that. Young guy working there grabs the cooler, puts it on the floor below the counter, takes out the baseballs, puts them in a big bag, fills it up with Kool-Aid and gives the cooler and the bag back to our freshman.

"He comes back and says: 'That McDonald's has a great deal. You buy enough Kool-Aid to fill up a cooler and you get four dozen baseballs."

Blanchard permitted himself a robust laugh and then said: "That naïve freshman turned out pretty good. He's a successful lawyer in a Twin Cities firm."

Blanchard became the baseball coach at Southwest Minnesota State in the summer of 1996. This weekend the Mustangs were closing his 27th and final regular season with a three-game series vs. Minnesota Crookston. He was honored by the school before Saturday's last home game.