Mayor Of Loretto, Minn., Knows How To Play Ball

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In college baseball, teams are vying to reach the post-season. Kent Koch, 23, is one college baseball player who knows something about down-to-the-wire victories. He was elected mayor of his hometown in Loretto, Minn., last fall. Now the second baseman is fulfilling mayoral duties while taking on one last run at post-season play with St. Cloud State.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, at the age of 23, Kent Koch is not the youngest mayor in America, but he is likely the only one who also plays college baseball. Koch is the starting second baseman this spring for the Huskies of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. And last fall, he was elected mayor of Loretto, 55 miles away.

Greg Echlin reports on a man who is sometimes called a mayor, a ballplayer and a student, all on the same day.

GREG ECHLIN: Loretto is a town of 650 sitting on the western edge of Hennepin County, the same county where Minneapolis is situated. Its only a half-of-a square mile, so there arent any stoplights. The busiest part of town is the railroad crossing, where freight trains pass through daily.

(Soundbite of a whistling train)

ECHLIN: Across the street from the railroad tracks is the Choo Choo Restaurant. Thats where Jim Olson is enjoying a beverage at the bar. Hes unfazed by the fact that Lorettos mayor, Kent Koch, is playing today with the St. Cloud Huskies. Olson voted for Koch and he likes his new mayor.

Mr. JIM OLSON: I think the best part about it is hes probably young enough he doesnt really have an agenda, you know, a personal agenda that to say. And it's kind of exciting to have some new blood, young blood in town that cares about the city.

ECHLIN: Former Mayor Barry Andersen, who owns the Choo Choo Restaurant, decided not to run again. The only other candidate was Tom Van Beusekom, a last minute write-in candidate who served as the town mayor in the 1980s. Koch said he felt compelled to run.

Mayor KENT KOCH (Loretto, Minnesota): The rumor was around town that no one wanted to do it. And I felt like that was pretty sad that no one would want to step up to the plate and take on this responsibility.

(Soundbite of a whistle and a baseball game)

ECHLIN: So Koch took a swing at the job, successfully fending off Van Beusekoms challenge. But now, hes deep into multi-tasking. The Huskies are in the home stretch of their baseball season with aspirations of making to the NCAAs Division Two Championship. After he graduates next month, Koch plans to live at home with his parents. Until then, hes racking up the miles between St. Cloud, Loretto, and wherever an interview for a full-time job takes him.

Despite making only a few thousand a year as mayor, Koch says he knew what he was getting into, sort of.

Mayor KOCH: I did. But at the same time, its still been an eye-opening experience so far. You know, you dont really get a whole lot of background information. You get a little orientation before, but it really wasnt as much preparing that I really would have liked, I guess, or expected.

ECHLIN: When the word filtered around the St. Cloud State baseball team last fall, few took Kochs political ambitions seriously, including his coach, Pat Dolan.

Mr. PAT DOLAN (Coach, St. Cloud State Baseball Team): He ended up calling me 'cause it was on his Facebook page. You know how kids are. Sometimes they put stuff on Facebook just as joking around and stuff. But he called me after. And first I was concerned about it because how does a guy be a mayor of a city and then also be a full-time student, much less be a baseball player?

Mayor KOCH: All right. And we already have discussion on that.

ECHLIN: Kochs current class load is the least of his worries. He needs only three credit hours to earn his finance degree. More critical is the time crunch caused by conflicts between his games and the city council meetings.

On this day, fresh from a doubleheader sweep, Koch is now in the center seat as mayor, only 10 minutes after the meeting started.

Mayor KOCH: Okay, we had a motion in second. Any further discussion? All in favor say aye.

UNISON: Aye.

Mayor KOCH: Opposed? Motion carried.

ECHLIN: Koch is in the first of a two-year term. Hes not sure if hell run again. For now, his homework is working with the city budget. Then hell be back on the baseball diamond tomorrow.

For NPR news, Im Greg Echlin.

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

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