Outlook

Iconic Students : A leader on and off the field

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kent Koch

Speak softly but carry a big stick could be Kent Koch's motto.

The soft-spoken St. Cloud State University senior not only is a captain on the Husky baseball team, but is mayor of his hometown of Loretto.

There aren't many college seniors who are mayors of their hometowns, but then, to hear folks who know him talk, there aren't many guys like Koch running around. Heck, he even admits he is kind of different.

"I've always liked going to city council meetings," the fifth-year finance major said. Koch, 23, grew up in the community of 609 people. How small is the town? "Basically, we don't have a high school, so I went to high school in Delano."

As a high school student, Koch worked in the city parks department. "I learned a lot about the city working for the parks department."

He also played a lot of baseball. It's a family tradition in a town that has a rich baseball history. Koch's father, Herb, is a manager and long-time player. And his two older brothers, Herb, Jr. 27, and Nick, 26, play ball. The four even played all four infield positions during one game and grabbed newspaper headlines for the feat.

"The baseball field is the first thing you see when you drive into town from the north," said Koch, whose amateur team has qualified for the last two state tournaments. "There's a sense of community."

And on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons, when the baseball team plays its games, the community shows up at the ballpark.

"It's a real small-town atmosphere. It's a nice park, one of the best in our league. A lot of pride and joy and a lot of volunteer work when into it."

And the Koch family has invested lots of time and energy into the park and baseball program, including the elder Koch. "He manages now and still plays a bit" at age 50, Kent Koch said. And while Dad played, his sons got their start as bat boys.

The decision for the youngest Koch to attend St. Cloud State was easy. His uncle, Tom Ditty '69, was a standout baseball and basketball player at St. Cloud State. So when then Head Coach Denny Lorsung '71, recruited him, Koch knew he wanted to wear the Huskies uniform. His first year on the team ended when he broke a bone in his hand, but every year since then, he has played more and has become a versatile player who can man every infield position. It's that versatility the makes him a great team player and will serve him well in his new role as mayor of Loretto.

Koch filed for the mayoral position because no one else was running and he thought it was time to step up to the plate. He won by a vote of 189-109, beating a former mayor who ran as a write-in candidate.

"I'm definitely excited about it," said Koch who will graduate this spring. "It will be a fun and exciting challenge."

Husky Baseball Coach Pat Dolan '92, has nothing but words of praise for his senior co-captain.

"Kent is just a quality young man and a leader for us both on and off the field. At first when I heard about his election to mayor of Loretto I was kind of surprised, but what a great honor for a senior in college. With only one class remaining this semester for his graduation in finance it does open up some time for him and his duties as mayor.

"I just told him when he's elected president to remember us at Huskyland," Dolan said.

After graduation, Koch will move home and delve more deeply into the role of mayor. One of the big issues on the horizon in Loretto is building a storm water drainage system and doing away with sewer ponds. That move will mean a tax increase, though, and will need to be explained to residents. Koch feels as though he can handle the job.

"I've gone to city council meetings the last couple of years regularly," said Koch of the once-a-month Tuesday night meetings.

Koch won't have an office in Loretto, but if you need to find him, check the ballpark on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons.

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