After the Howard Lake Orphans had an extremely successful 2015 campaign that ended just short of an appearance in the Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament championship game, the Orphans came up one game short in the Region 12C tournament in 2016 of reaching the state tournament.
The Orphans came into the Region 12C tournament as the No. 1, seed after posting a 15-5 record in the North Star League during league play. After being upset in the first round of the Region 12C tournament by Buffalo, the Orphans defeated Maple Plain 6-1 to keep their seaon alive.
The win over the Diamond Devils set up a state qualifying game against Maple Lake, for a trip to to state. The Orphans struggled in their state qualifying game against the Irish, as their season ended with an 8-1 loss to the Irish.
Pitcher Jared Koch was named the North Start League’s Most Valuable Pitcher for the 2016 season.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake goes back a long way, starting in 1905, when the team was named the Blue Sox.
Throughout the early 1900s, Howard Lake eventually lost the name, but gained a new one in 1947.
Playing their home games in Cokato that year, as their field was being refurbished and couldn’t be played on, they started getting called the Orphans, and the name stuck.
The Orphans made their first state tournament appearance in 1951.
Town team baseball in Howard Lake ceased from 1942-1946 due to World War II, but the Orphans took back to the field after the war and thrived until 1967, when the team folded.
The 1970s and 1980s were a dark period for town team baseball in Howard Lake, as they had no team, with many players playing in neighboring towns.
The team did try to come back in 1991, and also fielded a team in 1992, but then folded again.
That is when a group led by current manager Mike Gagnon, and Kevin Gruenhagen started the Orphans back up, and it has been a success ever since.
Howard Lake has advanced to 12 state tournaments, with its first one coming in 1951, followed by 1995, 1998, 2001, and finally 2006 through 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
The Orphans play their home games at Memorial Park in Howard Lake, which is located on the shores of Howard Lake.
Over the past decade, the park has seen a number of improvements, including added seating behind home plate, a batters’ eye, and a grass infield, among other improvements.
All of those improvements, along with more to come, have made Memorial Park one of the best baseball fields in the area.
Prior to the 2009 season, new dugouts and a new backstop were added at Memorial Park.
In 2011, due to high water conditions on Howard Lake, Memorial Park’s outfield was flooded, which forced the Orphans to move their playoff games to Loretto. Work has since been done to fix the flood damage to outfield.