By Dan Ninham
Waabigwan Wagner (Ojibwe /Lac La Croix First Nation) will be a senior at Northome-Kelliher High School next school year and is an up and coming softball team member for the Mustangs. “I hit .510 this year, won the Mustangs Teammate of the Year Award, and three time Gold Glove Award,” said Waabigwan Wagner. “I also won an All Conference Award.”
During the 2022-23 season, Waabigwan hit 15 doubles, four triples, and had 40 hits. She has caught the attention of college recruiters.
Waabigwan considers her top athletic experience winning the Northwoods 10-12 League Championship with her dad and siblings coaching her.
“My older siblings have loved sports and helped me realize how much I love sports as well,” said Waabigwan. “I had three older brothers and an older sister who were all in the same league throughout their childhood. It was a great experience to be led with example.”
“My favorite game has always been softball,” said Waabigwan. “My father was the coach for all of my siblings and every time one ‘graduated’ from the league they stood by my dad and helped him coach. A lot of the time my brothers Giizhik and Migizi, sister Laechen and my late brother Sage were there either doing scorebook, being the running coach, or just being in the dugout helping with whatever the other kids needed.”
“Looking back at it now, I didn’t realize that not everyone gets the opportunity to be coached by their family and I will forever cherish that for many years to come,” added Waabigwan.
“Participating in sports has been a very transformative experience for me,” said Waabigwan. “It not only helped my physical abilities but it has also taught me valuable life lessons.”
“Teamwork and leadership has influenced me a ton. While working with others so closely in the game that we love, I have experienced first-hand the power that teamwork can hold,” added Waabigwan.
Her dad and mom, Jody and Kathy Wagner, have seen the supportive teammate Waabigwan has been since her first season playing softball.
“I wouldn’t have become the softball player I am without my dad Jody,” said Waabigwan. “I could always go to him if I need advice or even just a hug when I felt the defeat of the game, he always reassured me, and still currently to this day.”
Jody Wagner was Waabigwan’s Little League coach for four years, and the assistant varsity coach for her softball team for three years.
“While practicing at any level, when it’s time to do a drill, it seems like there’s always a kid left out, especially if you have uneven numbers,” said Jody Wagner. “Waaby has such a big heart, she will look for that to happen, find the player left out, and put an arm around them.”
“Waaby has always been that protector. If anything, since her brother Sage died three years ago, she’s been even more of a protector,” added Jody.
Mom Kathy Wagner talked about her daughter Waabigwan: “If it’s simple little words of wisdom and how to deal with emotions and makes them feel better, she is a great person and always has a great smile. I always see her teaching her sister how to play ball and they play catch. She loves the game and when everyone comes off the field she always gives them a high five win or lose.”
Pennie Rude is the varsity softball coach for the coop school Kelliher/ Northome HS Mustangs. She has been coaching Waabigwan since her sixth grade in softball.
“Waaby has played first base and short stop, and she moved to third base this year,” said Coach Pennie Rude. “She is also the backup catcher when we need her behind the plate. Waaby will play at any position because she understands that playing in any position is a benefit to the team.”
“Waaby was instrumental offensively in driving in runs and earning runs herself. She is a left handed batter that is patient in the box, continually makes adjustments to pitchers in order to get on base and that is the ultimate goal of any offensive hitter,” added Coach Rude.
“Waaby earned her first in the park home run and we are only looking forward to Waaby’s leadership and talents next year on the team,” said Coach Rude.