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Former Farwell Softball Coach Steve Klinge Passes Away at 71

FARWELL – Connection, competition and care. These three words embodied former Farwell softball coach Steve Klinge’s approach to coaching.

Klinge, 71, passed away earlier this month. He coached the Eagles from 2014 through 2021 before health complications forced him to step away.

“He was demanding but he loved those kids an absolute ton,” said Farwell’s current head coach AJ Esterline, a former assistant under Klinge.

“Sometimes he was gruff and sometimes he was grandpa,” said Klinge’s daughter Amy Saupe.

Klinge started coaching at Farwell in 2009 when his son Steven Klinge Jr. was the head coach. Steven Klinge says his dad connected with players right away.

“It was always an instant connection. The kids always called him ‘Papa Klinge’ when I was there because you know, I was Klinge and he was Papa Klinge. And then ‘Papa Smurf’, whatever, they called him all sorts of stuff,” said Klinge Jr.

Klinge took over for his son as the head softball coach in 2014. His competitiveness helped lead Farwell to some of its most successful seasons.

But his care is what those he coached with will remember most

“During that game it was give everything you got, we want to win. But after the fact, he’d put his arm around you and say ‘hey, it’s a softball game,'” said Esterline.

Steven Klinge Jr. is now the softball coach at Onaway. He says softball has taken on a new meaning in the last few weeks.

“It’s been a little bit emotional. Memories come back and flood you and whatever but yeah it’s been good and I’ve had a little bit of a different outlook on it, I think. It’s not life or death, that’s really what it is. So let’s have fun,” said Klinge Jr.

Back in Farwell, eight of the players on this year’s team played for Steve Klinge last season. First-year coach A.J. Esterline says it’s simple things that make it feel like ‘Papa Klinge’ is still connected with the team.

“I used to go visit Steve and I asked him if I could have his bucket. He used to always sit on his bucket. He said ‘A.J. the bucket is yours.’ And so, the bucket always goes [with us]. And then it feels like he’s with us all the time.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Klinge had passed away at the age of 72. He was 71 years old. We regret the error.