ALGONA – If you ever make the trip to Algona to see a game at Bishop Garrigan, there is a name that you can’t help but hear, wherever you go. The name is everywhere.
On the Golden Bears softball team, a collection of Meister's has helped to form one of north Iowa’s top softball teams. Wendi Meister is the head coach. Three of her daughters play on the team, with her two oldest, Madison and Mackenzie, anchoring the top of the lineup for the 27-6 squad.
Madison is the leadoff hitter and leads the team with a .517 batting average. Twin sister Mackenzie is the number two hitter and is hitting .510, with a team-high 45 RBI. Younger sister Bailey is a sophomore and hits ninth in the order.
Plenty of athletes at the high school level get to play ball with their siblings. But not everyone gets to play for their mom. The family has laid down the boundaries, and they agreed to leave family behind when they’re on the field.
“They know that when we’re here, I’m not mom,” Wendi Meister said. “They’re going to get treated like everyone else is treated. Honestly, sometimes my expectations of them are higher than anybody else, because they have to be.”
Wendi plays no favorites on her team and says that she told her girls early on that they would have to earn their playing time. That has definitely been the case. The past two seasons, Madison and Mackenzie have been the Golden Bears' best hitters.
“They want to be good,” Wendi said. “They expect me to be hard on them. We’ve had our arguments, that’s how it is. They work really hard, they listen well. They are really good leaders and they push the people that are around them, too.”
Wendi has been the head coach at Bishop Garrigan for 20 years, and her husband Rob Meister is the head baseball coach. So for the girls, the school is a place they’ve been around their entire life.
“It just feels like this is our home,” Madison said. “I’ve been here since I was a toddler. It’s our home and we love to be here together. It’s so much fun.“
Not only are their parents the head baseball and softball coaches, uncle Mark Meister is the new head basketball coach. The baseball field is named after their great grandparents, Bernard and Thelma Meister. Their late grandpa Eugene was the president of the Bishop Garrigan school system for many years, and was a hall-of-fame baseball coach.
Gene died in 2016, but he and his family continue to have a huge impact on the Bishop Garrigan community.
“Their grandpa left a huge legacy at Garrigan, and at Bancroft and St. John’s,” Wendi said. “Gene put his heart and soul into both schools and did everything he could to create this. They all play for him. We lost him three years ago to cancer, and they play for him. They talk about him all the time, they wish that he could see this. He would love this, watching the girls play hard and win.”
Separating the relationship they have with their mom with the relationship they have with her as their coach is something that doesn’t seem to phase the sisters. They know to call her coach in front of the other players, and they also know that once the game is over, the game will not follow them home.
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Wendi understands when to coach her daughters and when to leave them alone, and said that the family doesn’t talk much about softball when they are at home.
“On the way home, we don’t talk about much,” Mackenzie said. “If I have a bad night, she tries not to bust my buttons.”
Madison and Mackenzie agree that their mom is harder on them than she is on other players, but they don’t seem to mind.
“She’s definitely harder on us, she expects more out of us, especially since we are her daughters,” Mackenzie said. “It’s great having that mentor around, not just in softball. She’s helped in volleyball. It really helps, especially at home. You can just talk to her, she knows a lot about softball.”
The twins hit at the top of the order, with Madison serving as the speedy leadoff hitter, and Mackenzie the one who drives in runs. Their skills complement each other perfectly, and the twin connection helps both of them out in tough moments.
They both said they usually can tell what the other one is thinking, and when Madison gets on base, she can count on Mackenzie to get her where she needs to go.
“We put a lot of work into it in the offseason,” Madison said. “We’re so comfortable hitting by each other in the order. It was like that last year too. We found that comfort in each other. It takes a lot of hard work. We rely on our teammates to push us.”
On Wednesday, the Golden Bears beat Northwood-Kensett in the regional quarterfinals, 11-1. The team won on a game-ending home run from pitcher Amanda Miller. The three-run shot gave Bishop Garrigan the winning 10-run margin and sent them to the next round.
All of the Meisters were thrilled that the hitter who hit the homer was Miller.
“I’m so proud of Amanda,” Madison said. “She’s always here before and after games, just to get the work in. She puts in a lot of work to do that. I’m so proud of her that she had a walk-off.”
On Friday, the squad will face North Butler for a spot in the regional finals.
With the whole Meister family there to support them, the girls know that no matter what, somebody has their back. And though grandpa Eugene isn’t around to watch them battle in the postseason, Wendi says that he is still a major presence in the sister’s lives.
“They talk about him all the time,” Wendi said. “They wish that he could see this. He would love this, watching the girls play hard and win.”