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Mathson named Hernesmaa/Chelesnik Award winner for second consecutive year

Josh Mathson rewrote Ely’s American Legion baseball record book with his hitting prowess and is the all-time leading home run hitter in Minnesota high school baseball history.So it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that Mathson picked up another first last week.He became the first two-time winner of the Mark Hernesmaa/David Chelesnik Jr. Memorial Award.Mathson received the 2004 award, which annually goes to the Ely Legion baseball team’s most valuable player, prior to Post 248’s district tournament victory over Chisholm.In five seasons of Legion ball, Mathson smashed his way into program history with a program-best 31 home runs and a lifetime batting average of .485. He also set new Legion marks for doubles and runs batted in.And this season was probably Mathson’s best yet in an Ely uniform.Going into last weekend’s state tournament, Mathson had set a single-season Ely Legion record with 16 home runs (the previous record was eight). He’s also on pace to set a new single-season mark for batting average (.578). In 24 games, he had 41 hits, 23 walks and 44 runs batted in. On the mound, he’s 7-0 with a 1.75 earned run average.“Those numbers are just phenomenal,” said Tom Coombe, Ely’s head coach. “I don’t know if there was a more feared hitter in this part of the state. And many of his home runs were just shots, the kind where you knew the moment it left his bat that it was gone.”For Mathson, the award capped a big year that started in the high school season, when he set the new state high school baseball record for career home runs (32). He finished with nine homers this year and helped Babbitt-Embarrass-Soudan-Tower to a 15-9 record. Mathson was part of two BEST teams that went to the state high school baseball tournament.And in Legion ball, Mathson has been Ely’s top hitter for four straight years and part of three state tournament teams.The son of Kirby and Tammy Mathson of Embarrass, he has participated in tryout camps conducted by the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners, and he’ll attend Iowa Central Community College this fall.Players are nominated for the award by the Legion coaching staff and the winner is selected by the Hernesmaa and Chelesnik families.The Hernesmaa/Chelesnik Award was established in 1981 and is named after two standout Ely players who passed away in the early-1980s.Hernesmaa drowned in 1981 and the award was established in his name later that year. Chelesnik battled cancer for more than four years before passing away in 1984. His name was added to the award the next year.The two were teammates on Ely American Legion, VFW and high school squads, and were part of four Border Area champion Legion teams, three District Eight champion VFW teams, and one Legion state tournament team.Previous award winners were David Chelesnik Jr., Brian Palo, Frank Ivancich, Steve Sayovitz, Greg Tulla, John Mavetz, Bill Muhvich, Bill Palo, Bill Mobilia, Greg Schepers, Jim Barich, Benjy Gibney, Dave Jalonen, Chad Davis, Brian Olson, J.J. Puzel Steve Dunstan, Bob Zbacnik, Adam Rannels, Jeff Richards, Bill Planton and Bobby Fink.Mathson received an engraved plaque from Ed Hernesmaa and David Chelesnik Sr. during last week’s presentation. His name will also be added to a plaque that is located in Ely Memorial High School.• Mathson was also named the winner of the Jeff Richards “Big Bopper Award.”Named after Richards for his four home run, 10 RBI night against Eveleth in 2001, the award goes to the Legion player with the top offensive performance for the season.Former Ely Baseball Association president Lee Rannels presented Mathson with the award July 31.

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