Lumberjacks start from scratch under new head coach Jim Grimm

Apr. 12—Like many Bemidji lifers, Jim Grimm had his encounters with former Bemidji State men's hockey coach Bob Peters.

Grimm, who was named Bemidji High School baseball's ninth head coach in program history on Oct. 2, 2023, graduated from BHS in 1976. While attending Bemidji State to play football and baseball, he discovered his passion for coaching through a Beaver legend.

"(Peters) had this way of running practices," Grimm recalled. "Back then, our batting tunnel was at the end of the hockey rink. It fit between the wall and the boards, and it wasn't very wide, not nearly as wide as it needed to be. We'd practice at the same time as the hockey team, and when (Peters) blew his whistle to talk to his players, we had to stop hitting."

Grimm quickly became attentive to how Peters ran his practices, and he started to take notes.

"I noticed that in everything they did, it was done with (urgency)," Grimm said. "When I was done playing (baseball), I would run up to the bleachers and write down everything that was going on. Peters never talked for more than three minutes at every whistle. He just went drill to drill with purpose."

Grimm said his dad knew Peters well when he was growing up but still found the 744-win coach with 13 national championships intimidating.

"One day, he called me out," Grimm continued. "He goes, 'Grimm, what are you doing up there? You don't know enough about hockey to be scouting for anybody.' I say, 'No, Coach, I'm just writing down what you do at practice because you're so good at organizing it.'

"I didn't want to bother him. Peters looked at me and said, 'The mountain didn't come to Moses. If you come to me for advice, I'll give you all of it.'"

That day, Grimm learned the importance of attention to detail, and it's how he's orchestrating his practices with the Lumberjacks as they head into their first season with him at the helm.

Grimm replaced

Mike Fogelson, who became the winningest head coach

in BHS baseball history with 258 victories over 18 seasons with the Jacks.

"Mike won a lot of games," Grimm said. "He's put me in a situation where the program is in good shape. It'll be a whole new team short of a couple of guys who came back, but most of them haven't seen a lot of playing time."

Bemidji has competed in 20 MSHSL-recognized state tournaments since 1948 and a few more before a high school athletics governing body was instituted. However, the Lumberjacks haven't returned since their Class 3A state championship in 2012.

"I'd certainly want to send a parade of teams to the state tournament because that's how it used to be," Grimm said. "It's been fewer and further between now since we play in the highest class and in a tough section. We're not the only school putting a team on the field."

Section 8-4AA is no joke and hasn't been in recent years. BHS earned the top seed in the section playoffs last season but fell in its third game in the double-elimination tournament.

Top to bottom, Grimm knows the Jacks' adversaries standing in the way of getting back to state pose a myriad of hurdles.

"I'm a big believer in Bob Peters' theory that if you do things the right way, winning is a byproduct," Grimm said. "I've seen that ever since I've started coaching. Doing those things well leads to wins. You can't take shortcuts to that one win. You do it right until you get those wins."

When Grimm got the job in October, he vowed to showcase continuity through all levels of baseball in Bemidji.

"We want to build through the youth programs," Grimm said. "We can establish a program, not a bunch of teams. We want the fundamental things taught the same way. I need to spend some time with youth baseball. I need to be present year-round with baseball in town. I'm an old Lumberjack myself, so I know how important that is."

While Grimm inherited a program ripe for more success in the coming years, he sees room for improvement in the microscopic aspects of baseball that could make a difference for the Lumberjacks in the playoffs.

"We need to be able to do pick-offs, bunts, first and third situations — all of it," Grimm said. "Even though (those situations) don't come up all the time, they will at some point, and you need to be prepared when they do. ... When you're up here in the North when it's cold, the ball's just not going to travel. You have to find other ways to score."

This wasn't the first time Grimm was selected to take over a baseball team in Bemidji.

In 1996, he was named head coach of the BSU baseball program, a position he held for six years. Then, life changes led him to adjust his priorities.

"I had two little kids," Grimm said. "Due to the nature of the facilities at BSU at the time, we had to practice twice a day at 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., so I literally didn't see my family from January to June. I couldn't do that, so I decided to call it quits, knowing that I'd have a chance to get back into coaching in the future."

Grimm works as a paraprofessional at the middle school. He raised his two kids, Otto and Sylvia, in Bemidji. Two years ago, Sylvia was named the first-ever coach of

Bemidji's American Legion fastpitch softball team.

Otto took his first head coaching position in the area last summer,

coaching Bemidji's Legion Walleye team.

"We're taking over," Grimm said jokingly. "I grew up in an era where it was emphasized that when you get a chance to give back, you give back. If somebody sacrificed for you to have an opportunity, you do the same. That's what we all have to be about."

Sylvia graduated from BHS in 2014 before Otto finished high school in 2018. Otto played college baseball at Minnesota for three seasons before transferring to St. Cloud State in 2023. Otto is also an assistant coach for the Jacks this spring.

"People won't believe this, but I never pushed my kids into baseball or softball," Grimm said. "I never wanted to be that dad. They were old enough to be around me when I coached at BSU, so it just happened. They developed that love for fastpitch and baseball. I'm so lucky because I can help them to a degree, but now this is something we can share."

Grimm is the latest in his family to take a head coaching position in Bemidji, and he's eager to look to his kids and assistant coaches for advice along the way.

"Handling kids, that's what they're both really good at," Grimm said. "You're a fool if you think you're done learning because you're my age. I've kept up, kept studying the hitting and pitching. There's going to be negotiations. I hope as a staff we can have those open conversations about why we do things in certain ways."

Just as Grimm did during his playing days at Bemidji State, he reverts to an old coaching mindset he picked up from Peters as he embarks on the 2024 season.

"I have a purpose and a goal," Grimm said. "The goal is to win. That's why you keep score. But my purpose, my umbrella over everything, is to build better people. I want the kids to get better every single day on and off the field."