Barry Wohler played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring for Bird Island-Lake Lillian High School. He also participated in track when a meet didn't conflict with a ballgame.
Three and even four sports were not unusual 40 years ago for athletes in Smalltown, Minnesota. What was different for Wohler was his aptitude in all of them.
"Not so much track," Wohler said. "We had a couple of ballplayers who helped put together a 4x100 relay team, and we finished fifth in the state. But there weren't colleges wanting me to come and run track."
Different story in his three main sports after high school graduation in 1981.
The Gophers recruited Wohler for all three: Joe Salem to play quarterback, Jim Dutcher to play guard and rookie baseball coach John Anderson as a lefthanded pitcher.
As it turned out, Wohler never threw a pass, shot a jumper or threw his sinking fastball in a major league, but the athletic prowess provided moments over which to smile last week in his subterranean office as the boys' basketball coach at Orono High School.
• "Hertz still was giving out what it called the No. 1 Award to a high school athlete for each state," Wohler said. "I was representing Minnesota. Patrick Ewing was there from Massachusetts; quite a few athletes who became well-known.
"Hertz had us in New York for three days and the ceremony was held at the [New York] Athletic Club. The celebrity shaking our hands and giving us the awards was O.J. Simpson."
Wohler smiled. "I had a picture with him and we had it on a wall of the house in Bird Island," he said. "And then the murders took place and my mom [Rita] took it down."
Where is the photo today? "Mom probably hid it at the bottom of a box in the garage," he said.
• Wohler was a 14th-round draft choice by the Dodgers in June 1983. He signed in late August and was in the organization from the fall league in 1983 through the 1988 season.
"Sandy Koufax would be in Vero Beach for spring training," Wohler said. "One day, I said to him, 'Sandy, in what situations did you use your changeup?' He said, 'Well, I never really needed to … but you will.' "
Wohler smiled again at that great moment: A lefty hopeful getting a gentle barb from the greatest lefty ever to take a mound.
• Wohler had crept into Class AAA with the Dodgers' Albuquerque farm club for the playoffs in 1987. Fired up, he seized a chance to pitch for Maracay in the Venezuelan Winter League.
"That was Davey Concepcion's team," Wohler said. "He still was playing and was the hero. I pitched one game against a lineup that had eight big-leaguers.
"First game I pitched, there's a man in uniform with a M-16 on the top of the dugout. I give up a bomb in the first inning, and fans are screaming at me and making the throat-slashing sign.
"I said: 'Wow. They are serious about baseball down here.' "
• Wohler had been back in Minnesota playing town-team baseball for a half-dozen years. He was the high school football coach and pitching for Belle Plaine. Wohler pitched Belle Plaine to the 1994 Class C title and was selected as the tournament MVP.
The baseball strike still was on as spring training was starting in February 1995 and the Twins made a halfhearted attempt to put together a "replacement" team.
"You know who called me?" Wohler said. "Jim Kahmann, the trainer. He's from Bird Island. He was our student manager for our state championship teams. He'd tape ankles. Great guy.
"I was 32, still threw fairly hard, and it was a seven-week vacation in Florida. Why not?
"I took an unpaid leave at Belle Plaine and got to play some ball with good guys. Tom Kelly treated us well. So did Gardy [Ron Gardenhire]. Dick Such and Scott Ullger were coaches that didn't much like having us around."
Kevin Kennedy had known and managed Wohler in the Dodgers system. He was the new manager for Boston that spring.
"I fielded a one-hopper to the mound, threw a low fastball to second and the ball went into center field," Wohler said. "Kennedy was in the other dugout and yelled, 'Wohler, you still have that sinking fastball, but it's to second base.' "
The real players returned through an order by U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor before a replacement season could start and Wohler headed back to Belle Plaine and life as a coach.
Wohler and his Bird Island buddies had won consecutive state Class C football titles in 1979 and '80, as well as Class A basketball titles in the two-class system in 1980 and '81.
The coach was his father, Jerry. The scrapbook keeper was mother Rita. They live in Bird Island. Barry has been married twice, no longer, and has four children and two grandkids.
He coached at Belle Plaine from 1990 to '99, at Marshall for five years to 2004, tried college as Hamline men's basketball coach for three seasons and has been the Orono boys' basketball coach since fall 2007.
The Spartans defeated Columbia Heights 85-76 for the Class 3A title in 2011. When star Jordan Smith ran into foul trouble, Wohler's son Brady heated up and led his team with 23 points.
Nothing new for a Wohler.
Forty years ago, Bird Island-Lake Lillian defeated Winona Cotter, featuring coach John Nett's famed shuffle offense, 49-47 in two overtimes to win its second straight state title.
The winner was a 23-footer from Wohler with five seconds left. Mike Costello, a future Cotter Hall of Famer, had the assignment of guarding Wohler and said in the Minneapolis Tribune:
"I tried to cut him off, and that's what I did. When I backed off a little, he went up. … When he let it go, I thought it probably would go in. He's a good shot."
Barry Wohler was, wasn't he? Good shot, good option QB, good sinking fastball.
He broke a thumb in fall practice with the football Gophers in 1981. He joined the basketball team and was a freshman reserve on the 1981-82 Big Ten title team; he played a bit more as a sophomore. He pitched for Gophers baseball teams that won the Big Ten tournament in 1982 and the regular-season title in 1983.
When with the Dodgers, Wohler also was attending St. Cloud State in two of three trimesters. He played two seasons of basketball for outstanding Huskies teams (1985-86, 1986-87) with the exceptional Reggie Perkins as a sidekick.
Anderson, still the Gophers baseball coach, said: "Wohler had a very good fastball. He was a late developer because he played so many sports. If he had concentrated on one, he might have made it."
Tell Wohler that and he'll say: "I had a good feel for all three sports. I had a strong arm, which is an asset in football, basketball and baseball."
Wohler smiled one more time and said, "Heck, I was so naïve I came to Minnesota believing I would play all three for the Gophers."