Dowagiac dedicates Hagen Field
Published 3:56 pm Sunday, April 16, 2023
DOWAGIAC — Saturday’s Brian Frazier Invitational was a reunion unlike any other for the Dowagiac community, and for good reason.
Former Dowagiac Baseball Coach Dean Hagen was on hand for the dedication of Hagen Field prior to the start of the tournament. The invitational featured the Dowagiac, Niles and Cassopolis baseball teams.
“It was a beautiful day, couldn’t have planned it any better,” said Dowagiac Athletic Director Brent Nate. “Between the slew of former players who came back and the community members that came out, it was a great, great atmosphere. We’ve had great support and couldn’t have asked for a better day for it to happen.”
Family, friends, community members, and former players were on hand to honor Hagen, Dowagiac’s all-time winningest coach and a Michigan High School Baseball Association Hall of Famer. Hagen coached 21 years of baseball and never had a losing season. He had eight players drafted into the minor leagues and 14 players who received full or partial college scholarships.
“I was surprised (by the turnout),” he said. “It was a great 21 years and I had great ball players. Everyone was supportive of me. My time at Dowagiac was well-spent. I’m pretty lucky.”
“What a great guy,” said Niles Baseball Coach Jim Brawley. “How do you go 21 years without having a losing season? That’s incredible; that tells you he worked with the kids from the bottom up, which is what you had to do to build a program.”
Prior to the start of the invitational, Hagen threw the ceremonial first pitch to one of his four grandsons, Jack Hagen, a senior on the Niles baseball team. Another grandson, Murphy Wegner, was also in attendance. Wegner was the starting catcher at Buchanan on Brawley’s state championship team last season and is currently a freshman on the Albion College baseball team.
“(Wegner) actually helped us do some self-scouting of our team this year,” Brawley said. “He was very instrumental in helping us win a state championship last year at Buchanan. (Maddox) scored a run for us, that’s got to be a thrill for him. He’s a great kid. He’s going to Western Michigan University to be an engineering student.”
For Hagen, being surrounded by family and friends meant a lot.
“That was a big deal,” he said. “After I lost my wife, I spent a lot of time with the boys.”
The legend of the Legion jacket
Andy Kruger was a three-time first-team all-state pick as a member of the Chieftains baseball team. Krueger delivered a speech detailing the impact of the Legion coats worn by members of the Rotary Post 206 Dowagiac Legion Summer team. For Kruger and many former Hagen players, the Legion jackets were worn as a badge of honor.
“If you had this coat, you were one of the coolest kids in town,” Kruger said. “Coach Hagen knew that to have a successful baseball program at high school level, you had to play a lot of games in the summer. We played at least 50 games in the summer. That is why he was so successful as a high school coach.”
Kruger also highlighted the winning culture Hagen was able to implement at Dowagiac.
“The families would bring food and have cookouts during the games. It was the culture of Dowagiac baseball,” Kruger said. “Coach Hagen loved it. Baseball was what he did. He took pleasure in coaching us … He enjoyed baseball and took great pleasure in those little things. Coach Hagen put the time in for us to gain all the baseball scenarios we needed to be successful. This is why he is having this field named after him today.”
A moment years in the making
For Nate, the dedication and completion of the Hagen Field, located across the street from the high school, was a dream come true.
“This has been years in the making,” Nate said. “Probably 10 years ago, (former Dowagiac Superintendent Paul Hartzig and I said, ‘we need to try to get baseball over there.’ The dots started to connect, the stars aligned and it’s here. There are a few cosmetic things that we still need to do, but we’re able to play on it. It is a great playing surface facility … It’s huge for our program being right next to the high school and in the center of town. Even Tuesday’s game was just a game and there were more people here than we ever saw up at Rotary Park. It’s just great to have it here.”
With the track renovation project expected to begin in two weeks, the district’s goal of providing a centralized athletics campus is close to being accomplished.
“Everything with the exception of tennis and cross country is on campus,” Nate said. “This is huge for our kids, just to be able to walk to practice right after school or after-school tutoring, as opposed to trying to find a ride for our underclassmen. It’s definitely gonna be a huge benefit for us and the community. Everything is here.”