Dan Bayreuther was a young physical education/health teacher at Rockwell Elementary School and assistant high school football coach in Fort Atkinson when Paul Olson walked up to him one autumn day in 1990.
Olson was a fellow teacher and a highly regarded softball coach at Fort Atkinson High School.
Olson asked Bayreuther to take over for him.
Bayreuther reacted as if a high and tight fastball had zinged past his chin. After all, he was a football coach.
“Paul,” the Jefferson native recalls saying, “I like softball, but I know nothing about it. He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll show you the ropes.’
“And he sure did.”
Thirty years later, Bayreuther is headed into the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Olson, a 2013 WFSCA Hall inductee, was one of the people who nominated Bayreuther for the honor.
With the retiring Olson as his assistant, Bayreuther started his 28-year softball coaching career in 1991. And it started with a bang as the Blackhawks made it to the WIAA state tournament that first season.
In 1994, he accepted a teaching job in the Janesville School District and became Janesville Craig’s softball coach.
He wanted to stay in Fort Atkinson, but the State of Wisconsin had cut funding, which resulted in Bayreuther getting a layoff notice.
Bayreuther retired from teaching and coaching in 2018. He finished with 394-229 record, which included a 350-210 mark at Craig. Twenty-four of his 28 teams finished with winning seasons.
Bayreuther, who taught physical education at Marshall Middle School his final 11 years as a full-time teacher, kept coaching football as a Craig assistant until his retirement. He spent 34 seasons total as a football assistant.
He is still active, despite undergoing knee replacement surgery this summer. He is umpiring baseball and has supervised Janesville hockey games with Dan Murray for more than 20 years. During the summer, Bayreuther is part of the grounds crew at Riverside Golf Course.
Bayreuther has just returned to teaching part-time three days a week.
“I’m sort of a kindergarten cop,” he said, chuckling. “I have five classes. I take four or five kids who are challenged. I thoroughly enjoy it. I have one kid who I got to count to four. I really love it.”
That matches his feeling for coaching softball, a sport that will have him at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells on Saturday, Feb. 8 for the hall of fame induction.
“I’m going to see a couple of girls who I coached at Fort,” Bayreuther said. “I haven’t seen them in 28 years. I still text them once in a while, so hopefully they’ll make it. It will be fun.”
He deflects any credit.
“I didn’t get one hit, hit a home run or strike out anybody,” Bayreuther said. “The kids have to do that. I was very fortunate to have good players. The last couple of years our youth program really helped.”
And, of course, Paul Olson, who got the ball rolling back in 1990.