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In memoriam: John Dittrich

John DittirchIt’s always a terrible day when we need to report on the passing of a baseball lifer: Longtime front-office exec and personal friend John Dittrich passed away today. He was 73.

I first met John before the launch of this site; he was helpful as general manager of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (independent; Northern League) when I was freelancing an article about ballpark financing for a Minneapolis-St. Paul business managing. When this site was launched in 2002 so John was an early supporter of our efforts, quick with advice and an insider’s perspective. We later spent time discussion his passion projects, like the restoration of LaGrave Field (which yielded hours of stories for the loquacious Dittrich, ranging from snakes in the old dugouts to the merits of fair poles vs. foul poles) for the modern Fort Worth Cats and his involvement with the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation. He loved every aspect of baseball, and he had a special passion for ballparks. But I wasn’t alone in this level of interest from John: He had plenty of friends in the industry and was proud to have served as an exec at every level of pro baseball, from MLB and MiLB to independent ball.

That experience included over 40 years in professional baseball, including four years with the Texas Rangers, a year in the Texas League office, three years in the National Association office in St. Petersburg. He was a general manager at every level of the minor leagues: Class AAA, Class AA, Class A, rookie and independent. He also served as a volunteer with the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago. As he put it: two countries, 15 cities, 11 states and one province.

He retired to Tempe, Arizona, and was soon involved with spring training and Arizona Fall League games in Goodyear.

“John really set the standard for our team from the very beginning,” RedHawks chairman Bruce Thom told the Fargo Forum. “He got us started on the right foot and we’ve been rolling ever since. We owe a lot to John Dittrich getting us set on our way.”

He is survived by wife Lois, also a baseball lifer and frequently a front-office employee with John, serving as a ticketing and business manager. In recent years he persevered through medical issues that confined him to a wheelchair, but his enthusiasm for the game never dimmed, especially when it was time for spring training.