Zuidmulder Leads Hawks Despite Personal Tragedy
Hermantown Senior Lost Father 24 Hours Before Playoff Doubleheader
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Thursday May 28th, the Hermantown Hawks won two games to advance in the Section 7AA baseball playoffs.
An impressive performance, considering the loss Hermantown suffered just 24 hours earlier.
On May 27th, the Hawks were practicing on their home field. It was a practice like any other, when suddenly, assistant coach Kurt Zuidmulder said he wasn’t feeling well. Zuidmulder went to the dugout to sit down, and that’s when tragedy struck. Not only for the baseball team, but the entire Hermantown community.
Zuidmulder collapsed after suffering an apparent massive heart attack. Hawks senior Kole Zuidmulder was one of the first to his father’s side.
“It’s kind of cliche, but I watched him die in my arms,” he said.
“Everyone was there trying to help,” added Hermantown senior Parker Hawk. Everyone was gathered around trying to do anything they could.
Kurt later was pronounced dead at the hospital, he was 48 years old. Kole, as well as other members of the community remember Kurt as a larger than life personality.
“Everybody loved him,” said the younger Zuidmulder. “It didn’t seem like he had an enemy.”
“He always had a smile on his face, he was always helping out,” said Hawk. “He was always doing anything he could for everybody.”
“The reason people loved Kurt so much was his personality, said Hermantown baseball coach Mike Zagelmeyer. “He was so amiable and he brought levity to any situation he was ever involved with.”
Zagelmeyer left the decision of whether or not the Hawks would play thursday up to Kole, who says the choice was an easy one.
“My dad would never want me to miss a for the circumstances,” said Kole. “It just felt right to come here and play. He would want us to play the game and try to advance on in the tournament.”
“I know it seems very odd in that situation, to go out and play 24 hours after an incident like that happened,” added Zagelmeyer. “But to me it was the safest place to have those kids, rather than have them struggle somewhere else.”
Kole described his relationship with his father as very close.
“He was everything to me, everything to my mom,” Zuidmulder said. “We’re going to miss him deeply and forever. I’ll never forget him. He’s a big part of my memories and the reason I’m the athlete and person I am today.”
A three sport standout at Hermantown, Kole will play football and baseball at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He says he will miss seeing his dad in the stands, but knows Kurt will there be with him.
“Mentally he’ll be with me, in my heart he’ll be with me, said Kole. “You wish he could be there physically watching you , but I know he’ll be cheering me on.”
For now, the Hawks will try to take the emotions and channel them in to a trip to the State Tournament. However, Zagelmeyer says plans are in place to help any Hawks that are hurting.
“We’ve got to make sure that everybody is where they need to be if somebody needs help, that’s what we’ve really stressed,” hew said. “Our school and our staff have done a great job making sure people are in the right places and doing the right things.”
Meanwhile, Kole is grateful for all the support Hermantown has shown him and his mother in this trying time.
“I don’t think I can thank them enough,” he said. “I don’t think they can understand how much it truly means to my mom and myself and the family around us. It’s a lot to take in as a teenager. It’s tough, but these guys are making it bearable and making it somewhat easy to get through.”
As the hawks struggle through tragedy, they have another guardian angel watching over them.