Dan Seeman is a 1979 graduate of Arlington-Green Isle High School, and thus knowledgeable in the genealogy of those smallish prairie towns south of the Twin Cities.
Based on this, Seeman was asked for reporting purposes to name the Hartmann siblings who started to populate the athletic fields of Arlington in the 1960s and for decades that followed.
“There are eight,” Seeman said last week. “Let’s see: Dave, Mike, Sue, Lefty, Patty, Jean, Julie and Brian.”
So, four boys, four girls. “No, three boys, five girls,” Seeman said. “Lefty is Cathy, but nobody called her that in Arlington.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m impressed with a place where, at America’s dawn of women’s scholastic competition in the 1970s, this occurred:
The athlete who became known as “Lefty” was not a baseball pitcher for the Arlington A’s of town ball legend but a young girl shooting baskets in the driveway.
“I was the most lefthanded person ever,” Cathy Hansen said Friday. “I couldn’t do anything with my right hand. Lee Sauter was always with my brothers and he started calling me ‘Lefty.’
“And it took off from there. I was Lefty.”
The Hartmanns were athletes, and they married athletes, and those marriages led to more athletes — Hartmanns, Hansens, Rachels, Schultzes, Geisters, Stevenses — and now those grandkids are raising athletes.
“There were 77 of us, including spouses,” Patty Geister said. “Parents, the eight of us, 24 nieces and nephews, and great grandchildren. We’ve been fortunate. We’ve lost Mom [Lila] and Dad [Gary] — Mom too young, Dad at 89 — but the rest of us are still here.”
This grand Arlington family is suffering these days, knowing that Brian Hartmann, 51, the youngest of the eight siblings, suddenly has been struck with a fatal disease.
The affliction is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a brain disorder that strikes one person in a million and is always fatal. Brian told oldest brother Dave early this summer that he was experiencing headaches and having a tough time concentrating in his job figuring prices for a roofing company.
“Summer, lots of jobs, and he was working 60 hours a week,” Dave said Friday. “I told him, ‘You’re working too hard. Take a break.’ ”
In mid-September, Brian’s blood pressure skyrocketed one day, then his conversations with his companion — Kris Herd — became disjointed, and he went to the Mayo Clinic.
It took three days of diagnosis with other national specialists and then, on Oct. 7, came word from Mayo: Brian had this rare monster CJD. He is currently in a memory care facility in the Twin Cities and family members continue to visit.
“Last Friday, we were able to bring Brian to Arlington and he was inducted in the Arlington A’s Hall of Fame,” Dave said. “He played many years as a slugger with the Hamel Hawks powerhouse teams.
“Brian was in Hamel’s Hall of Fame, but he also wanted this. He played for the A’s for a number of years. He wanted the three brothers to be together in the Arlington Hall of Fame.”
Dave was getting ready to start his senior year of high school when Brian was born. Thirteen years later, Dave was in his familiar catcher’s position for the A’s when Brian started a game against St. Peter.
“Brian could throw hard at 13, and we wanted to give him an opportunity,” Dave said. “St. Peter had the Baker boys [Brad and Jeff] and other good hitters. Brian beat them and I caught. I still remember how proud I was of my kid brother.”
Mike was the true Hartmann pitching star. The righthander was wanted by the Gophers, but he signed with the Twins out of high school in 1972.
“Mike wound up with a torn rotator cuff and his pro career ended after 2½ years,” Dave said. “When he decided to give it up, Gary Ward was a teammate and said, ‘Don’t quit. Get healthy. You got what it takes.’ ”
Mike came back, became a standout second baseman, and was a state tourney MVP for Red Wing in 1992. Brian, playing first and DHing, was a state tourney MVP for Hamel in 1997.
As Mike did as a pitcher, Brian had a pro future as a catcher before injuring his throwing arm. He was the backup to Dan Wilson for two years for the Gophers and was invited in 1991 to the Olympic trials. He was in the Cape Cod League for two summers, and played ahead of Jason Varitek in the first season.
He injured his throwing arm while playing a Gophers game in 30-some degrees in Kentucky and moved to first base.
As for the Hartmann sisters, they were a collection of outstanding athletes — Susie predating Title IX, and Julie, Patty and Lefty all going to Minnesota-Morris, competing in multiple sports and marrying excellent Morris athletes.
“You would hear that slur, ‘You throw like a girl,’ ” Dave said. “One person who never heard that was Lefty. She had a great arm, and also was a state long jump champion.”
The generation of nieces and nephews included a bottomless supply of athletes, including Brian’s oldest son, Tyler, a fullback for Jerry Kill with the Gophers.
Tyler is married to Shayne Mullaney, Mark’s basketball-playing daughter, and they have a 9-month-old son, Rockwell. Scholarship offers are anticipated soon.
The Hartmanns of Arlington — quite a generational crew, and now heavy in their hearts over Brian’s misfortune. The feeling was summarized by Lefty:
“Such a rare disease. You wonder how it can be, and you pray.”
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