Thursday, April 24th, 2014
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Horstman adds another Hall of Fame honor in July
Katie Horstman hasn't paced any sidelines or around the infield of an oval track for nearly two decades, but she is far from forgotten.
In July, the former Minster track and field, cross country, softball, basketball, gymnastics, and volleyball coach will be honored with an induction into the National High School Hall of Fame with a class that includes Ozzie Newsome, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, and Michael Devereaux.
While in Minster, Horstman had a knack for collecting state championships and although she hasn't blown a whistle for quite a few years, she is doing a remarkable job of still piling up accolades in various Halls of Fame.
"I was recovering from some health issues when they initially contacted me to tell me about my induction, so I wasn't interested in paying a lot of attention to it," she explained. "Then some representatives flew out here to California from Indianapolis to interview me. I had no idea how big of a deal this induction was on a national scale, so I am truly honored to be a part of it."
Katie coached and taught in Minster for a quarter-century from 1972 through 1996 and helped construct the girls' track and field and cross country programs into the most dominating powers in state history. After guiding the Orange and Black to their first track and field state championship in 1976, the Wildcats went on to claim the crown in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1985 and 1989, as well as the Class A cross country title in 1982. Her teams were also state runners-up eight times, including four occasions in track, three in cross country, and once in volleyball.
While on her watch, 34 of Horstman's athletes captured state track and field titles while one took home first-place in the state cross country meet.
"When I arrived in Minster, I was very fortunate to have some outstanding girls with which to work," she commented. "Girls' sports didn't exist at the high school level at the time and many of my athletes hardly knew the difference between 100- and 200-yard dashes, but they were all eager to learn. Girls like Nann Meyer, Kathy Swink, and Kim Seaver did so much for our program in those early years. Of course with families like the Slonkosky and Moorman girls who all wanted to outdo their older sisters, they provided a lot of drive which trickled down to the other girls on the team and made us that much better."
Prior to her re-emergence in her hometown more than 40 years ago, Horstman made her mark as an outstanding softball player. At the age of 16, she launched her career in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) with the Fort Wayne Daisies, the squad which gained notoriety in the movie "A League of Their Own." Horstman was a pitcher, catcher, and third baseman, where she excelled for four seasons while with the Daisies. She was chosen for the AAGPBL All-Star game at third base in 1953 and concluded her career with the sixth-highest batting average in league history and was 11th all-time in home runs, while also logging a 29-11 overall record from the pitcher's mound.
"I played softball regularly with a team that Tony Bernard put together in St. Henry and one time there was a scout there from Fort Wayne who took notice of me and Tony's daughter, Joan," Horstman remarked. "He said that we were both good enough to play professional baseball in Fort Wayne. Joan was in love with her boyfriend, so she wasn't interested in going, but I definitely was. There was nowhere else I was going to make $50 per week at that time, so my mom said that as long as I made it to church every Sunday, I could play. I was 16 years old and traveling all over, so it was a wonderful experience. At the time we didn't realize how groundbreaking it was and I don't think many people did until the movie came out so many years later."
In 1988, the AAGPBL was honored with a permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, to commemorate the league's pioneering encouragements in the development of professional athletics for women.
"That was an absolutely amazing experience," Horstman said. "For women to be inducted into a hall of fame that was dominated by men was very special. Being there and involved with the ceremony was truly the thrill of a lifetime."
When her playing days were over, Horstman enrolled and graduated from the St. Elizabeth Medical Records Librarian School in Illinois before joining the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart order, where she taught for five years before becoming the first nun in the country to graduate from DePaul University. She later earned her Master's Degree from Miami University in Oxford before returning to Minster where she enjoyed an extended tenure in the classroom and on the athletic fields.
"To be honest, I was nervous returning to Minster," she admitted. "I had been away for so long and traveled to so many places, I wasn't sure what it would be like anymore. I had 35 kids in my class when I graduated from there, and the first year I returned there was 102 in the grade I was teaching. The kids were outstanding to teach and coach though, and I quickly figured out that it was definitely a good decision to return."
Today, Horstman resides in California where she is active in several charity-driven organizations. She returns to Minster each summer and until a couple of years ago, participated in the village's annual Alumni Softball Tournament.
"I have had some heart issues that have really slowed me down over the past couple of years," she pointed out. "It drives me crazy too because I am always wanting to be on-the-go. My former athletes would probably be surprised that I had heart problems so late in life because they would have likely expected it to happen while I was coaching and yelling all of the time. I guess maybe I just don't yell enough anymore!"
Horstman has previously been inducted into six national, state and local Halls of Fame, and the plaque she is awarded in July will be her seventh. She is quick to point out that each induction is special in its own way.
"Obviously, the honor in Cooperstown was a very remarkable time for me, but all of the inductions are unique," she concluded. "I was inducted into the Minster High School Athletic Hall of Fame a couple of years ago and anytime you are honored by your hometown it is a wonderful experience. I have been blessed over the years with many fine athletes and these honors are truly a reflection of what we were all able to accomplish by working hard and working together."
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