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Kuiper Family

Henry Kuiper, center, poses in July 2015 with the four children he raised on the Mount Pleasant farm he purchased in 1952 for $35,000. From left are Duane, now 68, Jeff, 61, Kathy, 64, and Glen, 55. The Kuiper children had returned to the farm on which they were raised to celebrate the 90th birthday of Henry and his second wife, Pauline.

Direct your eyes eastward from the Interstate freeway that brought so much hustle and bustle to this area in the mid 1960s and Henry Kuiper’s 100-acre wheat farm still retains its picturesque serenity.

Barns with a backdrop of rolling hills. No industrial parks to be seen. The song of nature rustling through trees. That’s the way it was in 1950, when Henry came up with $35,000 for this parcel of land in Mount Pleasant — that’s a value of more than $348,000 today — and it’s as if this place has been preserved in a time capsule ever since.

Henry’s three sons, Duane, Jeff and Glen, who each graduated from Case High School in different decades, were raised on the farm. They learned the value of hard work from their father, a firm, but loving gentleman farmer.

And as difficult as it may be to conceive during a time when iPhones seem to have become natural extensions of our fingers, the farm gave each of the boys a canvas on which to paint their personal fantasies.

“Working the fields for seven hours, how many game-winning homers do you hit in your head doing that?,” said Jeff, who was born seven years after Duane and six before Glen. “The only social media was going on in your head.”

Duane copied Eddie Mathews’ sweet left-handed swing as the voices of Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh described a Milwaukee Braves game on a nearby transistor radio in the early 1960s. Glen used to hit rocks over the barn, his idea of swinging for the fences, as he dreamed of following in Duane’s footsteps to the major leagues in the mid 1970s.

What a place. What a father. What an upbringing. And on the afternoon of July 13, the three brothers returned from California, where they are involved in broadcasting at the major-league level, for a party to celebrate Henry’s 90th birthday. He actually turned 90 June 6, but they were not able to return until the All-Star break.

What they returned to was a place that has aged like fine wine.

“We just knew,” Glen said, “that that’s the way it was when he said, ‘If I send you out in the field, then you’re going to finish what I send you out there for. Don’t come back before it’s done.’

“Now when you think back as you’re older, you’re thinking, ‘If I’m going to start something and I’m going to finish it the best I can.”

It was with that mindset that Glen, 52, followed Duane into the major leagues. It wasn’t as a second baseman, which Duane was for the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants from 1974-85. Instead, it was as a play-by-by broadcaster for the Oakland Athletics, a position Glen has held for nearly 12 years with Comcast SportsNet in California.

The 58-year-old Jeff was the not the athlete Duane and Glen were. He was a good-field, no-hit first baseman for Case in 1974 and ’75 and never had realistic major league aspirations. Nevertheless, that’s where he earns his living in his role as producer for San Francisco Giants telecasts by Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area.

Where he is today was inspired by what Henry ingrained in him.

“I think everybody thought I would be the best farmer of the boys,” Jeff said. “I don’t know if Dad ever thought one of his boys would take over the farm but that was never a high priority to him. He used to tell us, ‘Do something that you love because then going to work won’t seem like work.’

“It’s really been true. I’ve been producing Giants games now for 26 years and before that, I was producing, ‘This Week In Baseball,’ in New York and it has never seemed like work.”

The person Jeff has been producing? Older brother Duane, a multiple Emmy Award winner as the play-by-play broadcaster for the Giants who has been nominated for the Ford Frick Award. That’s the highest honor a major league broadcaster can receive.

Duane was born in June 1950, two months after Henry and Annette, who died in 1992, Kuiper moved onto that farm. And for him, all his success goes back the man who made him work when he’d rather be out playing, but was also the first to show up for his games.

“I would be driving the tractor in my Little League uniform and we needed to get that field done,” Duane said. “But if my game started at 3, we would stop at 2:30 and he would drive me to my Little League game. He knew what was important to us. And when you get older, you don’t forget that when you start raising kids of your own.”

Three boys. Three success stories. One amazing father, who still walks his treasured ground with the help of a cane with second wife Pauline, who turns 90 in September.

“His legacy is he has four kids who all have jobs that they love,” said Henry’s only daughter, Kathy. “I’m a hairdresser. And we all love each other. What else do you need?”

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Peter Jackel is a sportswriter for The Journal Times, You can reach Peter by calling 262-631-1703 or by emailing him at peter.jackel@lee.net

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