Most baseball players over the age of 60 might be considered over the hill. Randy Bierle, who will turn 64 in September, is still on the hill as a pitcher in amateur baseball.
The Aberdeen man is a key member of the mound staff for Redfield Dairy Queen this summer.
“I think it’s gone pretty well,” Bierle said. “They’re surprised at how good I’ve been doing and I’m actually surprised at how good things have gone, also.”
Bierle, a native of Utica, S.D., grew up playing for Lesterville. He credited his parents for his start in the sport.
“Being on the farm if my folks wouldn’t have been dragging me 10-12 miles to Lesterville to the field there every game, I probably would have never gotten in it. So I guess I have to give them the credit for that,” Bierle said. “They came to all the games, all the way through, even when we played in Aberdeen. They were big supporters for sure. Mom is still alive and she can’t believe I’m still pitching.”
Bierle later played in college at USD-Springfield and then started a successful career in amateur baseball where he played for Montrose, had a long stint with Wendy’s-Coke in Aberdeen and was part of the 1988 state championship squad, and later played for Groton.
He has kept in touch with the sport as a member of the South Dakota delegation to senior league tourneys in Arizona and Florida, but got out of playing regularly. Until this year.
“Everybody needs an extra pitcher,” Bierle said. “That’s kind of why I got tagged a long with these guys, I guess, and I’ve played with them before.”
Bierle wasn’t sure how his body would hold up, taking to the mound on a regular basis.
“My arm hasn’t fallen off yet so, so far so good,” he said.
Bierle, known for his fastball and curveball, said a huge key to his longevity has been to stay injury free. He believes focusing on just one or two pitches while growing up helped in that cause.
“I’d have to say I’m pretty lucky that I haven’t had any injuries or broken bones. I try to stay healthy. I play tennis and that kind of stuff. I’m sure it takes a little bit of luck, too,” he said. “I could throw pretty hard (growing up). I didn’t throw the curveball very much, because I didn’t have to. I was getting by just throwing fastballs.”
This summer, Bierle has shown he can throw both the fastball and curveball for strikes. He credits his catcher Rich Osborn for helping to keep batters off balance.
“He’s a really good catcher, a good signal-caller. He’s smart about mixing it up,” Bierle said. “In the past, I’ve been more of a fastball pitcher, not so much curves. Surprisingly, I’ve had pretty good control, so it’s worked out pretty good for the most part.”
Bierle has witnessed a lot of changes in the game of baseball through the years, most recently the trend back to wooden bats instead of aluminum.
“That’s a big difference. The ball doesn’t carry all over the place,” Bierle said. “There’s very few home runs in wood bat leagues. I like it better. It’s definitely better for pitchers.”
Of course, there are many memories associated with playing baseball for more than five decades. Bierle played with several players who had stints in the minor leagues, including the late Vern Jark.
“He was a fun guy and would tell stories and all that kind of stuff,” Bierle recalled. “You always wanted to get his car, because he was always fun to listen to.”
Bierle said one of the most difficult guys to get out was former Claremont standout Sherm Cutler.
“He was a lefty. He was an Ichiro (Suzuki) type of guy,” Bierle said. “He was fast down to first. He would just slap it. He was a tough out for me.”
Bierle has certainly recorded his share of outs through the years. He said his top strikeout game was when he fanned 15 or 16 batters in one contest.
“That was probably when I was 30 years old or so,” he noted. “That was quite a while ago. That was back in the day.”
Fast forward more than 30 years, and Bierle is still retiring the side in order even if the word retire is not on his immediate baseball horizon.
When asked how long he will continue to pitch, Bierle responded, “I don’t know. I kind of hope to be able do it as long as I can.”
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