When Josh Gallop’s family moved from Plymouth to the Hopkins-Minnetonka area 10 years ago, it didn’t take long for the 9-year-old baseball player to find Big Willow Park.
Josh signed up for the Little League baseball program and immediately noticed that there was some really good talent at Big Willow. He asked people who the best players were, and everyone said, “Sam Niedorf and Robert Dworsky.”
It didn’t take long for Gallop to become friends with the other two, and for the last 10 years they have been teammates on various Hopkins all-star teams. They are currently playing together on the Hopkins American Legion team.
Before the three of them joined Hopkins’ 9-and-Under all-star team, they were opponents in the in-house league at Big Willow.
“I hit more home runs than Rob, but he was the best pitcher, at least until Josh got here,” said Niedorf.
The Hopkins teammates recalled how they bent the Little League rules when they played against each other.
“You weren’t supposed to throw curveballs,” said Dworsky. “And I never threw any – except when Sam and Josh were batting.”
“I did the same thing,” said Gallop. “But I didn’t call it a curveball. It was just a changeup that broke.”
Gallop acknowledged that he always wanted to out-do Dworsky and Niedorf on the ball field.
“There was always a rivalry to see who could hit the most home runs,” he said.
When they teamed up as all-stars, Dworsky, Gallop and Niedorf never won a state title, but they came close. After they added pitcher Logan Athmann to the mix, they became a very formidable team.
“We were second in state a couple of times and third a couple of times,” said Gallop.
Through their success together, the Hopkins threesome has always talked baseball strategy.
“Josh is the smartest teammate I ever had,” said Dworsky. “We all enjoy the game and take pride in our baseball IQ. And we have been great friends all these years.
“Sam and I started playing T-ball here,” said Dworsky. “Josh moved here in third grade, and we saw that he was pretty good.”
Josh came with an added benefit. His dad Jon became the all-star coach at Big Willow.
“Jon is the man,” said Dworsky. “He taught us most of what we know about baseball.”
“Jon taught us the ins and outs of the game,” Niedorf added. “I still ask him for advice, and since he likes to talk, he doesn’t mind giving it to me.”
Dworsky and Niedorf plan to play college baseball next year, Dworsky at Kansas University and Niedorf at Hamline University. Gallop plans to attend the University of Minnesota, and doesn’t plan to try out for the team.
Dworsky led Blake School to a state tournament berth this spring and was also named All-State. He will be a walk-on at Kansas.
“It was always tough not to play with Josh and Sam in the spring,” he said. “But I have really enjoyed being at Blake.”
Before they head for college, the Hopkins threesome would like to finish the Legion season on a high note.
“We will go where our pitching and fielding take us,” said Dworsky.
“I will match our top four pitchers up against any four in the state,” said Niedorf.
“To win in the sub-state tournament, we will need some timely hitting,” Gallop added.
Hopkins Legion coach Todd Jahnke said the three 10-year teammates are typical of the type of players he has on this year’s club.
“They love the game, they love each other,” said Jahnke. “And they are such good kids, who do all the right things. They know that win, lose or draw, we do things the right way. For me, it’s always easier to coach when you have a great group like this one. I feel fortunate to coach the Hopkins kids.”
Hopkins won 8-0 over St. Francis in its first game in the Gopher Classic at Big Willow last weekend, but the Flyers fell to Skutt from Omaha, Neb. 4-1 in the second round.
Robbie Palkert pitched a two-hitter to subdue St. Francis, while Tommy Gleason’s single in the sixth inning ended the contest via the eight-run rule. Gleason had a two-run double earlier in the game.
“Our defense was good today,” said Palkert. “And [catcher] Max Weesner threw out two men trying to steal. Sam Niedorf and Erik Wicklund made all the plays at second and short, and Jeremy Burton made a couple of great plays at third. Jon Koch made a catch in left-center. It’s nice to have him out there because he’s fast and gets a good jump on the ball.”
“Anytime we have one of our top four pitchers on the bump, we have a chance to win,” said Gleason, referring to the rotation of Athmann, Dworsky, Palkert and Lukas Jorgensen.”
“We just have to come to the park and play,” Palkert added. “We’re all connected and all on the same page. And we have the best manger in the business [Jahnke].”
Contact John Sherman at [email protected]