Brent Loehr has tremendous enthusiasm for literature and writing. The desire to read was sparked by his mother, Karen, who brought him books from the library in Muenster, Saskatchewan.
“She modelled reading. I became an avid reader which is a huge piece in becoming a writer,” he commented. Loehr, 40, of Muenster, soon developed an interest in sports and loved reading non-fiction sports stories. His favourite novels were about old-time hockey goalies. When he entered junior high the subject changed to rock bands. Then he came across Ken Dryden’s Home Game and W.P. Kinsella’s articles on baseball.
The avid reader and sports enthusiast can now boast of having a book of his own: The Global Baseball Classroom: Reflections Beyond Home. The book is a series of essays and anecdotes recounting Loehr’s experiences as an envoy coach with Major League Baseball. Loehr travelled the globe promoting baseball in northern Canada, Uganda, Zimbabwe, the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden. The accounts of his adventures exhibit a zeal for life which overflows into his love for, among other things, people, baseball, education and writing.
A chapter recalls a mysterious island on Hudson Bay. Another introduces David, a 12-year-old of the Czech Republic who, like MLB pitcher Jim Abbott, was born with only one hand. A humorous incident in Sweden brings Loehr into contact with the Swedish Chef, his favourite character on The Muppet Show. A step is taken into a dark period of history in a former concentration camp outside of Berlin. Baseball camps in Uganda and Zimbabwe introduce readers to the daily struggles of people.
The Global Baseball Classroom has a connection to Loehr’s hometown of Muenster. The chapter, Just A Ball, features a baseball cherished by the late Rev. Matthew Michel, OSB, of St. Peter’s Abbey. Michel, an avid baseball fan, was given the ball by Babe Ruth following a 1929 game between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Athletics. The baseball was signed by Babe Ruth and 14 other Yankee team members, one of whom was Lou Gehrig. The baseball is featured on the cover of the book. Another chapter, Blame Joe, is close to home. It recounts the riot on 8th Street in Saskatoon in 1993 after the Toronto Blue Jays captured the World Series.
Becoming an author was not something that was originally envisioned by Loehr. The achievement came to fruition after a series of lifelong events, he remarked. Loehr earned a baseball scholarship as a catcher following high school when he played with the Muenster Red Sox. He took his scholarship to North Dakota where he received an associate of arts degree at the University of North Dakota-Williston. He transferred to Minot State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education and planned to become a teacher after earning a double major in English and physical education and a minor in coaching.
At the age of 22, a curve was put into Loehr’s plans for baseball when he suffered a shoulder injury during a tournament in Trail, B.C. The injury did not put him on the sidelines of the game he loved to play competitively. Loehr decided to continue in the sport as a coach and became involved in the National Coaching Certification Program in Canada. The program landed him a role in coaching with Saskatchewan Baseball’s elite all-star programs. He then became certified as a facilitator to train coaches. Loehr coached with the Saskatchewan Baseball elite programs: Team Saskatchewan, Western Canada Games and Baseball Canada Cup. He provided coach certification clinics as an NCCP facilitator for Zone 5.
A milestone was reached in 2002 when Loehr was invited to offer baseball sessions in the Canadian Arctic. He was then selected as an envoy coach to represent MLB overseas. Having a love for writing, Loehr sent emails and then blogs of his adventures. The blogs earned him a loyal readership.
“If I was delayed in updating the blog I would get people emailing me wanting more. Many of these messages were not from people who were hardcore baseball fans. They liked my posts as they were human-interest stories or tidbits about the local culture I happened to be in.
A lot of these emails were from people I had never met,” he recalled.
During his final year as an envoy, while serving in the Czech Republic, Loehr decided to pursue his passion for writing and enrol in a writing diploma program at St. Peter’s College, Muenster. The instructors and fellow students at St. Peter’s College became interested in some of his stories. Loehr was given a spot in the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Mentorship Program where he worked with professional editor Ted Dyck.
“He made me feel that my stories had promise, which certainly is an additional nudge coming from a guy like him, whom I dearly respect. He encouraged me to submit some of the stories for publication and build up my publication credits. I did,” he commented.
Some readers contacted Loehr following the publication of his magazine articles and informed him that they enjoyed them. The positive feedback encouraged Loehr to continue writing. Several stories in his book have been published in magazines. Others appear for the first time in his book.
“I believe in the stories and as an educator I also believe in the importance of lifelong learning. The book contains a lot of positive messages and I think people can learn from them,” he remarked.
The love of learning has brought Loehr to become a career counsellor for the Horizon School Division where he works in 10 schools. He is assisting with the AAA Muenster Red Sox (18 and under) team and also works with the Rally Cap (t-ball) program that his daughter, Sarah, plays is on.
Interestingly, Loehr comes from a small community of 400 that is recognized as an accomplished baseball centre. In 2014, Muenster was named to the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame for its success in producing competitive baseball teams and maintaining its baseball facilities. Local teams have won many provincial baseball championships. In 2012, the Pee Wee Red Sox won both the AA provincial championship and the Western Canadian championship.
Loehr’s teaching career began in Lanigan where he worked as a high school physical education and history teacher for four years. The next eight years were spent at Humboldt Public School where he taught Grade 7 and looked after the physical education programming. Loehr then taught high school English and, career and work exploration at Humboldt Collegiate Institute and an online course in creative writing for students across the division. He was also the lead teacher for the Student Transitional Education Program.
Muenster has always been home to Loehr, who is the fifth generation of his family. His great-great grandfather, John Sr., and great grandfather, Arnold, emigrated from Stearns County, Minnesota, in 1903-04. His grandfather, Irwin (I.Q.), and father, Mervin, farmed just south of Muenster with his uncle Murray. He and Melissa have two daughters, Sarah and Leia, who coincidently love baseball.
The Prairie Messenger is a Catholic newspaper published weekly out of St. Peter’s Press in Muenster, Saskatchewan.
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