Feyereisen returns to RF during All Star Break
Reconnects with family, honors late uncle
RIVER FALLS - Back in May, an unexpected trade happened in Major League Baseball that left residents in River Falls wondering why. The first ever River Falls High School graduate to break into MLB, J.P. Feyereisen, was traded from his home state Milwaukee Brewers to the Tampa Bay Rays for shortstop Willy Adames.
Although the trade was a little disconcerting at the time locally, it has paid off greatly for Feyereisen.
“I mean, it's good so far, I think it’s definitely been wild with the trade and everything but it's been good. The Rays are an awesome organization and it's been a great point with them so far. So I'm really enjoying it there,” said Feyereisen.
Since joining the Rays, Feyereisen’s numbers as a relief pitcher have been dominant, even though he did not make the American League All Star team this previous week to play in Denver for the All Star Game. However, that opened the opportunity for Feyereisen to return home for the first time during the professional baseball season in the summer. Not only to reunite with many family members and old friends, but to be part of the crowd honoring his late uncle, Bob Kolashinski at First National Bank of River Falls Field on Wednesday night. Kolashinski was a longtime volunteer for First National Bank of River Falls Field; he died last August at the age of 65. A pregame ceremony was held Wednesday night before the Fighting Fish took on the Faribault Lakers, to honor Kolashinski with his family on the field. Feyereisen
Photo by Theodore Tollefson J.P.
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threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his father, Randy.
Feyereisen’s former high school baseball head coach, Ryan Bishop, presented the Kolashinski family to the crowd during the ceremony. Afterward, he spoke on the greatness of this moment for Feyereisen, the Kolashinski family, and the River Falls community.
“It's a pretty special moment for a lot of people, but for this town, and for our baseball family, in general, it's a really special moment. To be able to have him [Feyereisen] back on the field here and he, you know, whether he directly helped build this field, he indirectly was a big part of why this field got built. And like I said, at the end of my speech there, he never forgets where he came from. This is his home, it will always be his home. And he's proud to say he's from River Falls, Wisconsin, which makes me, as his coach, even more proud,” said Bishop.
Feyereisen was a 16th round draft choice by the Cleveland Indians in 2014, out of UWStevens Point. Even with a short stint of 27 games pitched in relief with the Milwaukee Brewers over the span of two seasons, Feyereisen still treasures the time that he had with the home state team.
“It was awesome! It was great getting to see family and friends come down to the games. They've been rooting for the Brewers their whole life and now they get to come and watch me play for themselves. It was pretty awesome to be able to do that. I mean, it's always fun playing for the hometown team. So, it's like you're rooting for the team to win outside of it and now that you're playing, you're really, you know, it's now you're really behind it.”
One of the things that has made the trade from Milwaukee to Tampa an easy adjustment for Feyereisen is the similarities he has seen between the two team’s managers, Craig Counsell of the Brewers and Kevin Cash of the Rays.
“They're both player managers. They both take care of their players. They're worried about their players more than they are worried about winning ball games. I mean, obviously, they both want to win. But they always want to make sure that their guys are healthy and they feel good every time they go out there. So yeah, they're both relaxed managers as far as that goes. And they both played the game. So they both know what it's like to go for a 162-game season,” said Feyereisen.
For Bishop, Feyereisen’s call up to the Majors at the start of the shortened 2020 season this time last year gave one thing to the River Falls community above all else: Hope.
“He gives a lot of people hope, because kids, they come to the ballpark, understanding and knowing that dreams are possible with hard work. The things that he did right here in this town to get where he's at. It's not just a pipe dream for these kids to think that that's not possible. It's right here. They give kids hope, right now, and that's as big as anything, but he's a man of character on and off the field. That is why people gravitate towards him and are so happy to see him do it as long as he is because he's a great ballplayer, but he's an even better person,” said Bishop.
As MLB enters the second half of the 2021 regular season, Feyereisen and the Rays remain one of the most competitive teams, eyeing their third straight postseason appearance. The Rays currently sit in second place, a game and a half behind the Boston Red Sox for the division lead.
Feyereisen shared his optimism for the Rays in the second half.
“I think that we just got to focus on avoiding that long losing streak,” Feyereisen said. “I mean, if we didn't have, I think we had a sevenor an eight-game losing streak there. And if we don't have that, we just need to mix in a winner too. And that we're going to be fine. But we're a streaky team, we play good defense. So, if we can swing the bats a little bit, I think we'll be pretty good.”
Referring back to the hope that Bishop shared before, there’s a possibility that before the 2021 regular season is over for Major League Baseball, a second RFHS graduate could be making his MLB debut. Alex Call, a 2013 RFHS graduate, is currently playing for Cleveland’s Triple AAA affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. Call has played in 59 games so far this season and has posted a .280 batting average, with eight home runs, and 27 runs batted in.
Bishop has kept in touch often with Call throughout this season and shared his hopes for Call getting his MLB debut before the season is over.
“Alex and I talk regularly and talk about a lot of things to do with the game and the mental part of the game. And I'm so proud of how he's made some adjustments and done the things he needs to do to put himself in the position that he's in right now to be a step away from a big league call up.”
When the time comes around for Call to make his MLB debut, the River Falls community will embrace his accomplishments as they have for the hometown hero Feyereisen when he made his return home last Wednesday. The stands were a sea of jerseys of the teams for which Feyereisen has played, as well as the hometown Wildcats and Fighting Fish apparel.
Photo by Theodore Tollefson