Weather Forecast


Thirty years in the making

East Ridge baseball coach Brian Sprout (above, with three-month old son, Ryne) is getting his first chance as the head coach of a high school baseball team this season with the inaugural Raptors club. Staff photo by Patrick Johnson. Grady Rolando (below) and his Raptor teammates are scheduled to take on River Falls (Wis.) in their first-ever game on Thursday, April 8 at ERHS.

Brian Sprout always wanted to be a baseball coach.

This year, he's getting his chance.

Sprout, a two-time All-American player at St. Olaf College who spent seven years in the minor leagues, is a head coach for the first time this spring at East Ridge High School.

Sprout said he wanted to be a baseball coach since he was a little kid.

"I knew eventually I was going to be a coach someday, so every chance I got to learn something different I did that," Sprout said. "I tried to pick up different things from all kinds of guys everywhere. I knew I'd need to know those things sooner or later, so I paid attention and picked a lot of things up."

Sprout's dad, Jim, coached him, along with his brother and sister, when he was growing up, which made him want to be a coach too.

"My Dad was always there," Sprout said. "He and my mom rarely ever missed a game, even through college. My dad ran all the youth programs and was an umpire at a lot of my games. That made things interesting when we got home. He was always challenging me."

Most recently, Sprout spent three years as an assistant coach at Mounds View.

"I've been wanting to coach for a long time," Sprout said. "Playing myself and doing some other things just never allowed for it. I got some good experience up at Mounds View."

Sprout, 30, claimed to learn a lot from Mounds View head coach Mark Downey, who he said, "showed him the ropes."

"I've always been really organized and focused on the details," Sprout said. "But, Mark put a lot of it in a baseball sense for me. I got to see what he did day-in and day-out and saw a lot of things I wasn't privy to before that."

Downey, who is entering his fourth year with the Mustangs, said Sprout is "no question" ready to be a head coach.

"He'll do great," Downey said. "He understands the game extremely well. He'll command the respect of his players. He's going to clearly define the expectations and hold them accountable to those. He's always been a kid who worked really hard for things. He's a great athlete, obviously, but more than that, he's been a student of the game and worked very hard at it. I'm sure he'll expect that work ethic from his players too."

A graduate of Lake City High School and St. Olaf College, Sprout played two plus years in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, and, most recently, three seasons with the St. Paul Saints where he was a two-time all star.

In college, Sprout was a three time Conference Player of the Year while at St. Olaf, where he helped the Oles to three Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and earned conference Player of the Year honors three times.

However, perhaps more impressive was this: In a 2002 game, he achieved a very rare feat by hitting a solo home run, a two-run homer, a three-run homer and a grand slam.

Sprout's last year playing for the Saints was in 2008, when he hit .202 in 26 games played.

However, in 2007 he hit .304 with seven home runs, 52 RBI, 64 runs and 111 hits in 96 games and in 2006, he hit .350 with 10 home runs, 59 RBI and 64 runs and 118 hits in his 91 games with the Saints.

When asked why he decided to hang up his spikes, Sprout said, "it was time."

"The Saints and I both knew it," he said. "I called it quits and we moved on. I always want to win and I want to compete. The Saints allowed me to do that and stay close to home for a few years. But, it got to a point where I had to do something else, because it was starting to wear on me and my family, too."

Sprout teaches Social Studies at Oltman Middle School and lives in the district with his wife, Lynn and their three-month-old son Ryne -- named for Sprout's idol, Chicago Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg.

The complete story is available in the Wednesday, April 7 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin.

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
(651) 319-4505