The Express connected with former first baseman Sam Kohnle over the week as part of our Express Alumni Update presented by Lakeland University.
Sam Kohnle quickly made himself an integral part of the Express roster in 2019. The Winona State first baseman scored 30 runs, drove in 29 RBIs, legged out eight doubles, and hit for a .307 regular-season batting average and .417 post-season average.
Additionally, Kohnle earned a .997 fielding percentage over the course of 57 games played in 2019 and was a recipient of a 2019 Rawlings ‘Finest in the Field’ Award. Kohnle accounted for 369 putouts, 18 assists, played the second-most innings on the team, 472.2, and was only dinged for one error over the course of the grueling Northwoods League season.
Sam Kohnle – Winona State Baseball Q/A
Eau Claire Express: How did you enjoy your summer in Eau Claire in 2019?
Sam Kohnle: Hands down one of the best summers of my life. I was able to play the game I love with and against some of the best collegiate players in the country. I loved going to Carson Park every day hanging with the guys and playing ball. I learned a lot from the great coaching staff as well. Dale, Vic, Billy, and AJ really helped me to improve my game and I am extremely thankful for that. I can’t express how much I enjoyed the summer of 2019 in Eau Claire.
ECE: What were some of the best moments for you?
SK: Late in the summer when we were making the push for the playoffs and eventually making the playoffs was very exciting. Every game mattered and the atmosphere of the crowds was awesome. Even though we ended up being a run short from winning the title, making it to the Northwoods League Championship will be something I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget all my teammates and the bond we created over the summer that will last a lifetime.
ECE: What was your experience like meeting Dwier Brown?
SK: It was surreal. Field of Dreams is my favorite movie of all time, so not only having the opportunity to meet but also play catch with John Kinsella (Dwier Brown) is a memory I’ll always have. On top of all of that, he was a really great guy and he also signed the ball we played catch with.
ECE: Winding down your collegiate career, what were your biggest takeaways from playing at Winona? How did the guys deal with the abrupt end to the 2020 season?
SK: The biggest takeaway from playing at Winona is the friendships I’ve made with my teammates. Everyone got along on the team and one thing I can honestly say about our program is that everyone is so close we are practically all brothers.
As for dealing with the ending of the 2020 season, it was tough for everyone. We felt that this was our year as a team to do some damage and unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to do that. I think the toughest pill to swallow was playing the last game with my senior class not knowing it would be the last time we would all be able to step on the field together.
ECE: What does the future hold for you as a senior at Winona?
SK: Fortunately, the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, so I have decided to use that right and go back to school and play one more year at Winona. After I graduate next year though, I plan on becoming a financial advisor.
ECE: To incoming Express players, what advice do you have for them as they get ready for a Northwoods League season?
SK: One piece of advice I would give to future Express players is to just enjoy the experience as much as they can. The season can get long but if the guys come to the ballpark excited to play and willing to improve their game, they will be very grateful for the summer. Another piece of advice that won’t hurt is to get to know some of the wonderful people the Express have working for them. Pete Knutson, Sadie, Sammi, and Chris to name a few. They are all really great at promoting the team and making the experience as best as it can for the individual player.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 26th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 230 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB All-Star Jordan Zimmermann (DET). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Express as your favorite team.