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Larry Niemeyer makes his pitch Saturday at Wrigley

Legendary Jefferson coach won 2,089 games in softball, 871 in basketball

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Before he coached, Larry Niemeyer pitched.

“That was a long time ago,” he said. “I’m nothing like I was then. I’ve been throwing about 15 or 20 pitches a day, and half of them I bounce in there.”

One of the most successful girls’ high school coaches in national history, the 78-year-old Niemeyer gets one pitch at Wrigley Field on Saturday, a ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago Cubs host the San Francisco Giants.

“I’m excited. It’s very cool,” he said. “I’ve been going to Wrigley Field for a long time.”

He was there with his father in 1945, when the Cubs last played in the World Series (they lost to the Detroit Tigers). The entire family — his wife, Gwen, four children and four grandchildren — made the trip to Chicago for Saturday’s game, which starts at 1:20 p.m.

Niemeyer has been playing catch with his son, Nick, in preparation.

“I can’t believe how bad I am now,” he said. “The first time Nick threw back to me, I about fell over backward.”

Niemeyer coached softball for 52 years, and his 2,089 wins (at Adel and Cedar Rapids Jefferson) rank No. 1 on the all-time national chart. He won four state championships, the fall title in 1970 at Adel, and the summer titles in 1983, 1997 and 1998 at Jefferson. In basketball, his 871 wins is third-most in Iowa, and he piloted Jefferson to the 1993 state crown.

Niemeyer has thrown ceremonial first pitches with the Cedar Rapids Kernels and the Iowa Cubs. But this, as they say, is the majors. The Show.

“How many people get this kind of opportunity?” he said. “I just hope I don’t blow it.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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