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Spring is in the air for Raider softball

New Raider softball coach Jim Revoir, second from right, and assistants Brianna Letness, Megan Blakeley and Melissa Johnson, have hit the ground running in preparation for the 2012 season. Revoir, a sixth-grade science teacher at the middle school, takes over for Dan Rasmussen, who retired at the end of the 2011 school year after 19 years as Raider coach. Photo by Bob Burrows photo

Spring and the start of the high school softball season may still be months away, but Jim Revoir can't wait for that first crack of the bat.

Revoir, a sixth-grade science teacher at Hudson Middle School, was hired as the Raiders' new softball coach last fall to replace Dan Rasmussen, who retired at the end of the 2010-11 school year after 19 years as head coach.

Revoir immediately assembled an energetic and experienced staff of assistants that includes middle school language arts teacher Brianna Letness, school district counselor Megan Blakeley, and Melissa Johnson of The Centre in New Richmond.

Letness played both softball and basketball at Viterbo College in La Crosse and Blakeley played collegiately at both UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls while Johnson played her college ball at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Revoir has also been busy this fall making plans for the Raiders to play their home games at what is known as Boosters Field No. 5, just north of the Grandview Field Complex, beginning this spring.

After clearing it with the park board, making arrangements with the Hudson Boosters, who hold the lease, and checking with the Department of Natural resources, Revoir has spearheaded a volunteer effort jackhammering concrete, removing fence posts and re-pounding fence posts in order to make the field dimensions adequate for high school softball.

Revoir said the project is about more than just moving fences.

"My plan is for it to be a place where the community wants to come and watch softball," he said. "We're looking for donations for a scoreboard and plan to build a two-story press box with a concession stand and storage.

"Grandview is a nice park," he continued. "But it doesn't have the feel of a varsity field. This will be our field; a place where you have to come here and play us. There's something to be said for having your own varsity field; the ownership and intimidation factor. I want that ownership; a place the girls can think of as their own."

Revoir, who taught science at North Hudson Elementary for five years before moving to the middle school seven years ago, was involved in a similar project at St. Croix Central High School, where he was an assistant coach before taking the Raider head job. He said he's looking forward to working with the team this spring.

"I think it's important to teach the game; not just the fundamentals but why we do things," he said. "Why bunt? Why pinch run? I like to teach situational softball in practice."

Unlike when he started at St. Croix Central, Revoir said the Raider program is already strong and thriving.

"Dan did a really nice job of getting the program to the competitive level it's at," he said. "I'm not starting with a rusty old car. I'm getting into a well-oiled machine."

Revoir also praised the Hudson Booster program.

"We've got such a great booster program here," he said. "One of the first things I did was call up and find out who is in charge and what do they need from me to help solidify the program.

"I think to have a really strong varsity program, you have to have support at all levels," he added. "The middle school doesn't have softball as a sport, so we have to rely on the Boosters."

Revoir said the team's slogan this year is "Do more. Expect more."

"That means hitting the weight room and being at captain's practice and hitting and pitching drills," he said. "We have to instill that expectation of winning, but I think we have to earn that."

Revoir said he's impressed with the number of players who are participating in Raider Elite--the school district's in-house strength and conditioning program.

"The girls are showing up and they're embracing it," he said. We have to go that extra mile to be better."

While it may still be November on the calendar, Revoir is already looking forward to spring break.

"March 19; the first day of practice," he said.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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