Pruefer had a passion for America’s pastime

Teacher, coach and player loved participating in baseball and watching his family and friends play
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Don Pruefer may be gone, but his dedication to baseball will carry on for generations in those he played with, coached and cheered on.

The list is long of those impacted by the former Port Washington High School physical education teacher who died at 83 on Saturday, July 30.

Pruefer came to Port to teach in 1967, and he also coached basketball, football and baseball.

It was the last sport that drew the bulk of his time. Pruefer was an all-state player at Jefferson High and started at third base for every game in four years at Carroll College, his son Mickey said.

He could have signed with the Chicago Cubs, but Pruefer figured he would only play a year or two, his son said.

Instead, he opted for a teaching career and 50 years of amateur baseball with his sons and grandsons.

At Port, more of a football town that took summers off, Pruefer instantly injected himself into every level of baseball. He coached Little League, and one of his players helped coach Pony League, Mickey said.

Pruefer ran the freshman team in the early afternoon, the junior varsity after that and led the varsity squad at night.

Award-winning scorekeeper and family friend Lester Mayer, who called Pruefer his second father, remembers those days well.

“Lots of days, I had an hour or less between the end of the JV game and start of the varsity game. I have yet to see a coach with that kind of dedication,” he said.

On Wednesdays, those teams took a break but Pruefer didn’t. He also played on and coached the Port Washington Lakers in the Land O’ Lakes league.

It was baseball seven days per week.

“So if you wanted to see my dad in the summer, guess where you’d find him?” Mickey said.

Pruefer began playing in adult leagues before he was eligible. At 14, he lied about his age to play in an adult league with his father and uncle. But Pruefer played on an opposing team. His father Alvin once caught during Pruefer’s at-bat.

“He said, ‘Boy, it’s really hard to call a game to try to strike out your son,’” Mickey said.

But Pruefer, who was big for his age, hit above .300 and patrolled center field.

His father was a catcher, one uncle was a pitcher and another played third base. The three are buried in that formation at a cemetery in Jefferson. Mickey said his father taking him to see that was an impactful moment.

Pruefer made baseball memories with his own offspring as well. To win an Men’s Senior Baseball League world series game in Phoenix one year, Mickey’s son Mikey had an RBI double, Mickey doubled and Pruefer came off the bench and got a hit.

“Three generations all got a hit in the same inning. He was glowing from ear to ear,” his son said.

Pruefer and his son played together on the Lakers for 25 years. After Pruefer retired, he still came to the diamond and other sports venues just as frequently as before.

“For anyone related to us, he would drop what he was doing to go to football, basketball and baseball games,” Mickey said.

“And he went to every one of my games my entire life,” including Pony and Little League, high school — his father was the coach — all the games Mickey played at Carroll and in adult leagues after that.

Pruefer and Mickey are one of only three father-and-son duos that are in the Land O’Lakes Hall of Fame.

Pruefer also followed star local athletes such as University of Wisconsin-Madison basketball star Josh Gasser.

“He knew who was playing where in college and how they would do,” Mickey said.

“They would call him and say ‘Thanks, Pruefer, for coming to my game.’”

He loved watching his grandsons Mike and Max play for the Saukville Saints. In 2011, Mickey and his two sons played in the all-star game together, and Pruefer threw out the first pitch to one of his grandsons.

“That one he glowed like a baby,” Mickey said.

One thing Pruefer did not do was showboat.

“He was just quiet,” Mickey said. “He believed in letting the scoreboard talk. Let your arm, your bat and your glove do all the talking and have fun with a smile on your face.”

See the obituary on page B12.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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