Fred Roufs, 73, the president of the Minnesota Baseball Association, died Tuesday night while hospitalized in Sioux Falls. He tested positive for COVID-19 in late November, and then was afflicted with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a disease that mimics polio.
Roufs had served on the MBA board for 26 years, and became president in early May 2020. He grew up in Le Sueur, went to college in Mankato, worked as a financial adviser in Marshall from 1976 to 1990, and then moved back to Mankato with his family.
Fred and his wife Susan were married for 52 years. They have two children, Jason and Jennifer (Hansen), and four grandchildren.
Harry Weilage, long-time recreation director in Marshall, was among Roufs' closest friends. "I never knew anyone with a greater zest for life than Fred,'' Weilage said Wednesday. "And the number of friends he has here in Marshall, in Mankato, in Le Sueur, and across the state … it's amazing.'
Weilage and Roufs were inducted together into Marshall's baseball hall of fame in 2019. Roufs became involved with Marshall on arrival in the city and was the P.A. voice for VFW, Legion and amateur games at American Legion Field.
"What Fred didn't know is we had a campaign to get him in the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame,'' Weilage said. "Even with Fred's long time on the board, there's a process for all nominees. We submitted over 60 letters of endorsement in his behalf, and he was going to be inducted this year – but it was cancelled by the pandemic.
"Fred didn't know about this. His son Jason was able to tell him on Tuesday that it would happen in 2021.''
Roufs became the MBA president this spring as amateur baseball was facing a shut down due to the state's COVID-19 restrictions. The political upheaval caused by those restrictions had an impact in small towns across the state and within the nine-person board.
There were two early retirements and Roufs had the task of bringing compromise to the group when named as president in early May.
The drama continued into the summer, when New Ulm first announced that it would remain as a state tournament host with its two ballparks, then backed out after a vote by the city council because of pandemic concerns.
Springfield, the original "third'' site, agreed to continue as a host. Milroy signed up to join Springfield in hosting the 48-team Class C tournament and Shakopee agreed to host the 16-team Class B tournament.
Four months after becoming president, Roufs was able to watch the 97th annual state amateur tournament wrap up with Fairmont's victory over St. Patrick in the Class C final on Labor Day in Springfield.
Roufs said that day by phone: "It turned out better than we could have imagined. This was by far the most stressful of my 26 years on the board and, at this moment, it is also the most rewarding. … Through it all, we didn't want to be the board that failed to hold a state amateur tournament.''
Roufs was a strong booster of Minnesota State Mankato athletics, particularly wrestling, a sport in which he had competed at Le Sueur High School.
Paul Allan, MSU Mankato's associate AD for communications, said: "Fred would go to the state wrestling tournament, and then come back with the brackets marked for our coaches – the message being, these were the wrestlers we should be looking at.
"A few of them might have been Fred's relatives, or relatives of his friends, but he loved wrestling, and he loved this school. He was inducted into our Hall of Fame in the builders category in 2012.''
The Roufs family said Wednesday that with pandemic restrictions still in force now, the likelihood is that a memorial service will be held this summer.
In a ballpark?
"That would be the best place,'' Susan Roufs said