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Swinging for the fences: Hudson trio spreading love of baseball to Mexico

Twelve year-old Nick Hirsch, left, Hudson High School senior Aries Cogbill, and Aries' dad Jeff, are planning a trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico in December to deliver baseball equipment to the local children there. Photos courtesy of Jeff Cogbill 1 / 2
A pair of local kids play catch using gloves and a ball that Jeff Cogbill gave them on a trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico in 2011. 2 / 2

Jeff Cogbill wasn't sure what game the kids were playing when he came across them on a 2010 trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, near Cancun.

"I was driving around the back of the island," he recalled. "A lot of people don't get in their golf carts and drive back there. But there's people living in shacks. And I saw kids with stick and rocks and I finally realized they were trying to play baseball."

The lifelong baseball lover and 11AA youth coach in Hudson returned home and told his son, Aries, what he had seen. Without pausing Aries responded, 'Dad, we have all this baseball gear laying around. Why don't you go back and give it to those kids?"

So Cogbill returned to Mexico in 2011, and again in 2013, bringing with him as much gear he could scrape together.

"It was on a very small scale, maybe five bats and 10 baseballs," he said. "But the kids were ecstatic."

Now Cogbill is planning another trip, on a much larger scale, and he's asking the people of Hudson and the surrounding area to help.

Cogbill and his son Aries, a senior at Hudson High School, are hosting two events in October to help collect as much used baseball gear as possible and help raise money to pay the baggage fees to deliver the equipment to Isla Mujeres over Christmas break. They are also planning on hosting a two-day baseball camp at Fisherman Baseball Stadium on Isla Mujeres during their time there.

"I've always wanted to go back and do it again but you know life gets in the way," Cogbill said. "But now we have the chance."

Cogbill and his son will be collecting used equipment at an event at Starr's Bar in North Hudson on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 12-3 p.m. Attendees of this family-friendly event are invited and encouraged to bring lightly used baseball gear to donate, then stick around for a hot dog, root beer, and baseball-related games in the parking lot."

"I don't want people running out to Dick''s and spending hundereds of dollars on new equipment," Cogbill said. "We just want the stuff that's lying around in the garage."

The Minnesota Twins got wind of the Cogbills project and have donated two inflatable stations for the event-- one for batting and one with a radar gun for pitching- that will be set up in the parking lot for kids to use. They also donated the signed Kent Hrbek baseball bat for a silent auction.

"A lot of people have already stepped up to help," Cogbill noted.

One of those people is Nick Hirsch, a player on Cogbill's 11AA traveling baseball team.

"Monday night the doorbell rang and it was Nick with his parents and he asked if he could go with me and Aries to help out with the camp," Cogbill said. "I think that's pretty cool that he and his parents are willing to give up their Christmas to do something like that."

The day before the Oct. 6 event at Starr's Bar in North Hudson, Cogbill has an event planned at Grumpy's Bar and Grill in Minneapolis to raise money to cover the baggage fees to transport the gear.

"Just the cost to bring it down there can add up," he said. "So we're looking for any help we can get.

Jeff and Aries Cogbill and Nick Hirsch will travel to Isla Mujeres Dec. 20-28.

"We're very fortunate here in Hudson to be able to provide all this nice equipment for our kids," he said. "The kids down there deserve the same thing."

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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