Coach, booster steps down as director

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Neal Jeppson is prolonging his Arizona winter after stepping down as operations director for Baseball Association 191. (Submitted photo)

Jeppson opts for longer winters in Arizona

Neal Jeppson brought a new dimension to his 46-year marriage by stepping down this year as operations director of Baseball Association 191.

Now he and wife Linda can extend their Arizona getaway into April, without having to run back to Burnsville so Neal can prepare for another season.

“The first 46 (years), I never had a spring or a fall off completely from coaching,” said Jeppson, a retired Burnsville High School and Carleton College baseball and football coach who stopped coaching last year. “We decided it was time to do that.”

In January Jeppson announced he was ending his official BA 191 duties. He joined the board of directors in 2000 and replaced the late Kip Peterson as operations director more than a decade ago.

“I had started finding some guys to do what I was doing a little bit,” said Jeppson, who will still help out with lining up city fields for games. “We added some new guys to the board. It was a good time” to step down.

Founded in the early 1990s by the late Rich VanderLaan to organize summer ball for Burnsville-area players 16 and older, BA 191 has three teams for younger players and is affiliated with the Burnsville Bobcats,  a 19-and-older amateur team.

While the Jeppsons relax in Scottsdale, organizers are at work planning the coming season.

“We’re going to miss Neal in that position,” said Richard McKenny, president of BA 191. “He knew everything about the baseball thing, whether it was games or schedules or rosters and all the people that needed to be touched in order to get tournaments for these three baseball teams.”

Jeppson, 69, is probably best known as Burnsville High’s baseball coach from 1974 through 2002. His teams made three state tournament appearances in the 1980s. Jeppson, who taught physical education and health, also was an assistant football coach for 30 years.

After retiring Jeppson did some part-time work for the city, manicuring the two baseball fields at Alimagnet Park. BA 191, which sponsors pull tab sales, has made improvements to the field totaling in the six figures.

In 2005 Jeppson returned to coaching — this time as the head offensive line coach for the Carleton College football team. The next year he was hired as hitting coach of the Northfield school’s baseball team.

“It worked out great,” said Jeppson, who as a young man had dreamed of a career in small-college coaching. “I retired from Burnsville and all of a sudden I got to do 10 years of college coaching I always wanted to do. I’ve had a good life and a good coaching career.”

Jeppson has done some summer coaching as far back as the mid-1970s, when a Mickey Mantle team for 16-year-olds was started in Burnsville. He coached Legion ball for a couple of years in the early 1980s.

His formal association with BA 191 came later, encouraged by local baseball boosters such as VanderLaan, Peterson and the late Ken Slipka.

“It was a no-brainer. Ken was a great guy,” Jeppson said. “They’re baseball guys. I wanted to be involved in promoting baseball anyhow. It was a no-brainer to step up there and do that.”