Cathedral baseball coach named national coach of the year

Categories: Around the Diocese

Bob Karn1

Bob Karn has been named the Division III High School Coach of the Year, just one more in a long list of accomplishments in his 45-year career coaching baseball at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. (Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

By Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

During his 45-year career at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Bob Karn has coached his team to more wins than any other high school baseball coach in Minnesota. He has won nine state titles, including this past season, and his team is currently on a streak, winning 50 straight games.

And now Karn has one more accomplishment to add to his list. He has been named Division III High School Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

“There is not a more deserving coach to be coach of the year,” said Josh Boom, a member of the 2001 championship team who has been a member of the Cathedral baseball coaching staff since 2004.

“If success is a measurement based on winning and losing baseball games, then clearly Bob is very successful,” Boom said.

But it’s not about the winning for Karn. It’s about his love of the game.

“If we can learn to enjoy the game, find a way to get better every day, and then help somebody else on the team get better while we’re having fun, things all work out,” he said. “Really, winning and losing are the result, not the goal. The goal is to enjoy this experience on a team.”

For the fun of it

Karn, a 1959 graduate of Cathedral, grew up loving baseball, playing in the backyards and open lots.

“We always played, and the essential part of it was play,” he said. “For me, as a coach, I can still remember playing catch with my brother. I can still have all of those memories as a part of what I’m doing right now.”

The pace of the game, the connection to the outdoors and the fact that it’s still pretty much the same game as it was 50 years ago keep him loving every minute of it.

“The ability to feel that sense of joyful fun is still a part of the game,” he said.

As the director of baseball and softball for St. Cloud Park and Recreation for 25 years, Karn saw how younger kids just love the game. He wants his high school players to experience that as well.

“I learned watching second-graders play and how much fun they have. They love to play. They can be behind by 10 runs but nothing dims their enthusiasm,” he said. “What we try to do is create that ‘playground fun’ inside of the players. They have fun every day.”

Karn, who also teaches advanced placement literature at Cathedral — now part-time — says part of what he loves about the game is how it parallels life and faith.

“The object of baseball when you’re on offense is to go home,” he said. “Everybody wants to go home, that’s the ancient quest of the ‘Odyssey.’ When Odysseus was at Troy, he fought for 10 years, and it took him 10 years to get home. His goal was to get home. Each of us as little kids were always wanting to get home. In baseball they even call it a home plate, which is kind of nice. Then, in the Christian message, our whole goal is eventually to get home again and be reunited with God.”

A lifelong Catholic and member of St. Paul Parish in St. Cloud, Karn witnesses to his faith in part through his care and compassion for players.

“At Cathedral High School faith is the single most important element of the life of the school and the life of the individual,” he said. “The ability to play baseball in a faith-filled community creates a culture and an atmosphere and an attitude that allows us to be thankful every day for the gifts that we’ve been given.”

“When you are a student or player under Bob Karn, you are put in an environment where you believe in yourself and all of your teammates,” Boom said.

“Bob not only teaches winning on the baseball field, but off as well,” he added. “He has the utmost respect for the game of baseball, and it clearly transfers over to his students and players and making sure they are prepared for their future — whether that means it is with or without baseball.”

Karn will accept his award in January at the National American Baseball Coaches Association convention  in Nashville, Tenn.