Fargo, ND – On a night full of fireworks and baseball, Zach Penprase reminded us all there is more to life than baseball.
On Friday June 6th, the RedHawks defeated the Laredo Lemurs by a final of 10-4. A crowd of 3,638 fans looked on as Zach Penprase drove in one run in the seventh frame and later brought the crowd to their feet with a bases clearing stand-up triple in the eighth that busted the game wide open.
It was the first win of the season at Newman Outdoor Field and RedHawks faithful were ready to take in some fireworks on a gorgeous Friday night. But first, Zach Penprase needed a haircut. It had been announced earlier in the game that there was a fundraiser going on for the Sanford Children’s Hospital put on by Penprase, and the highest bidder would get to cut off his hair in front those in attendance. Penprase announced that night the hair would be sent to “Locks of Love”.
Now Zach Penprase has been a mainstay in the RedHawks lineup for the past eight seasons. When asked why he has stuck around so long, Penprase remarks, “First and foremost I enjoy playing here because of Doug. Also playing everyday shortstop is huge for me. I’ve always wanted to play shortstop in the big leagues, but this is my big leagues.” He went on to say he has felt welcomed since day one in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
When Karla Schlagel received word of the fundraiser she knew it had to be her that cut the hair off. Schlagel has been a RedHawks host mother welcoming players into her home for the past 13 years, and she has been a fan since the team’s inaugural season in 1996.
The relationship between Schlagel and Penprase goes farther back than most people know. He has donned a RedHawks uniform for the past eight seasons, and she has known him since day one in Fargo-Moorhead. Schlagel was Penprase’s host mother for his first two seasons with the team in 2008 and 2009. Late in 2008, Penprase’s contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. When he returned to Fargo in 2009 Schlagel welcomed him back with open arms. Of her relationship with Zach, Karla says, “He’s the best player I’ve ever had. The RedHawks mean everything to me, and he means the world to my family and I.”
The bond between the two is so strong that Karla and her family went out to Zach’s hometown of Moorpark, California and stayed with him and his parents in 2010 and 2013. Located just northwest of Los Angeles, they spent their time touring LA and the coast with Penprase and his family. Karla’s husband Darrell and her son Cody feel as if he is part of the family. Penprase holds similar feelings, saying, “Over the years we have kept in touch year round, just waiting for baseball season to come. They will be a lifelong family. I have nothing but appreciation and love for the Schlagels.”
Penprase also has a long-standing relationship with the Sanford Children’s Hospital. Karla Schlagel proudly told us, “Zach’s the only player in the 20 years of RedHawks baseball that’s ever done any sort of fundraiser like this.” Penprase has donated to the charity several times and a few years ago he raised $500 with photographs he sold at Newman Outdoor Field during a game. Every year he and other players go to the hospital to spend time with a few kids just trying to make their day. This year the fundraiser raised $145 for the charity.
The next step was donating to “Locks of Love”. In order to donate, your hair must be ten inches in length. Of the hair cutting, Penprase said, “It has to be a minimum of ten inches long and I didn’t want to come up short so I waited a few years just to be sure. When I was ready to cut it I knew it was going to go to Locks of Love. Just trying to do my part.”
You definitely are doing your part, Zach.
By: Austin Hawkins