When Dale and Annette Hartman started their family 20 years ago, it became clear very early they were going to be a sports-centered family.
They have three boys – Zeke, 20; Ty, 18; and Devin, 17 – who have all enjoyed success in various playing fields. The passion for sports came early.
“When Zeke was 3 years old, we couldn’t get by his room in the hallway without him waking up,” Dale said. “He’d wake up, and honest to God the first thing he’d do is go downstairs, pull out a pillow and turn on SportsCenter. He loved sports, and his brothers followed along.”
The boys had good role models when it came to athletics. Dale competed in football, basketball, baseball and track at Mount Carroll High School, and later built the Byron High School baseball program into a powerhouse.
He played basketball and tennis at UW-Platteville, and is now an avid golfer. He’s in two halls of fame, and will be enshrined in another, in Byron, in September.
Annette also has some impressive athletic chops. She ran track for 4 years at Byron High School, and also served as the Tigers’ wrestling team statistician for 4 years. She filled that same stats role at Illinois State University for four seasons.
A Madison, Wis., native, Annette is a die-hard Badgers fan, particularly of the hockey team that is a perennial power.
“I can remember being in first grade and going to hockey games,” Annette said. “We would always go and watch the Badgers. I really don’t get basketball very well, but I can explain all the different moves, all the penalties and everything with hockey.”
She has two vivid hockey memories. First, when Wisconsin won the 1976 national championship, Annette’s parents, Ralph and Jeanine Larson, took her to the airport to greet the team.
Then there were the 1980 Olympic Games, when the United States earned a surprising gold medal. Wisconsin player Mark Johnson was one of the team’s stars, giving Annette even more reason to root for the USA.
“I can still remember watching those games,” Annette said. “I can remember exactly where I was sitting in our old house, watching Olympic hockey.”
She also enjoyed the Blackhawks’ recent run to the Stanley Cup, but only up to a point.
“Jonathan Toews is from North Dakota, and that’s a huge rival to Wisconsin, so I can’t really like him,” Annette said.
Annette remains the rock behind the scenes for Team Hartman. She’s attended thousands of games, be it from youth baseball at the county level to the boys’ high school events. She’s prepared thousands of late-night meals. She’s the peacemaker when the boys’ games at home get out of hand.
There’s only one part of her role that she didn’t embrace.
“The only thing I really hated was white baseball pants,” Annette said. “Zeke’s senior year, I had four pairs of white baseball pants I had to have clean all the time. They were just a mess.”
Zeke Hartman was a fixture at Byron Tigers baseball games for six seasons before he entered high school, as he kept the team’s scorebook. After games he’d get to run the bases and was part of the grounds crew.
“I raked the baselines, tamped down the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box and spread the tarp,” Zeke said. “Everything had to be just right.”
Zeke’s top highlight in high school came in baseball. He delivered the game-winning hit as a senior in a supersectional victory over Woodland-Flanagan-Cornell, and was also instrumental in a win over Aquin in a sectional final.
Down 4-2, Eastland rallied for a 7-4 victory. Dylan Stichter and Zeke led off with singles, and later in the inning, Zeke was on third with the bases loaded and the score 4-3. Reid Lessman then smacked a walk-off grand slam.
Zeke didn’t know it was a home run, leading to an odd moment.
“My coach didn’t tell me that it was out,” Zeke said. “He said, ‘Go,’ like the guy had caught it, so I was sprinting toward the plate. I didn’t realize it was out until I got tackled next to the chain link fence by everyone mobbing Reid.”
The moment was an especially gratifying one for Dale. He has drilled into his players’ heads when on third base and less than two out, make 100 percent sure a batted ball either falls in or is caught before trying to score.
Instead of watching Lessman’s home run sail out of the park from the first base coaching box, he was watching Zeke at third base, making sure he handled the play properly.
“From a coaching standpoint,” Dale said, “that was a proud moment.”
Ty Hartman had quite a baptism to the Eastland basketball program. He was a 4-year varsity player, and came off the bench as a freshman. His lone start as a freshman came at the 1A state tournament’s third-place game, after the team’s star, Tony Dunlap, had injured his shoulder in the semifinals.
“We had gone through a walk-through, and coach said, ‘Obviously Tony’s not going to play, so somebody else is going to have to start,’” Ty said. “We’ve decided the best thing is to have Tyrus start for him.’ I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ I didn’t know what to expect.”
Ty was a fixture for the Cougars in golf, baseball and basketball all 4 years, with the exception of the tail end of his junior year. About a week before the regional was to begin, he was taking batting practice when he tore the meniscus and split the patella tendon in his left knee.
The injury put him on the shelf until just before his senior season of basketball, but what a season it turned out to be. He averaged 13 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game as the Cougars finished 30-5 and fourth at state.
Ty is working at Eastland High School this summer. While cleaning in the office of varsity basketball coach Tony Dunlap, he got a reminder of just how special a season it was.
“We were looking through all the practice schedules and what Coach Dunlap had written from Day 1 to all the state games,” Ty said. “It was crazy to look at all that stuff and everything we did throughout the year. It made it that much more special to see all the work we put in.”
It’s normal for the youngest member of the family to say he got picked on and/or abused in some way, but in Devin Hartman’s case, it seems to be justified.
On the basketball court, his older brothers were merciless, swatting away shot after shot on defense. One time, Devin had enough, and took matters into his own hands – and is now a part of family lore.
“He felt his brothers were ganging up on him or picking on him,” Annette said, “so he proceeded to run inside, lock all the doors, bring the dog inside with him and locked everybody out of the house one afternoon.”
The tough brotherly love eventually paid off, as he was the first guard off the bench for the Cougars this past season.
“I always say that’s how Devin got his shot, and some of his moves and fakes,” Dale said. “He had to, otherwise it was going to be blocked in his face every time he played against his brothers. They competed pretty hard.”
In backyard football, it was Devin and Dale against Ty and Zeke. Again, there was no mercy.
“We would always want Devin to guard us because we could just jump over him,” Ty said. “And then Devin had a hard time getting open, so we’d just pile up the interceptions.”
He couldn’t even catch a break in golf. When the boys were 6, 5 and 3 years old, Dale took them to Oakville Country Club. They all rode in a cart, as they were small at the time.
After nine holes, Dale headed to the clubhouse, only to find Devin missing.
“I looked at them and I go, ‘Where’s Devin?’” Dale said. “Ty goes, ‘He fell out back there.’ Devin was laying face down in the grass.”
Another time, the boys were in the Lanark city park hitting some golf balls, before the family moved out to its current spacious digs in the country. Ty took a big cut, thinking he had plenty of room to swing, but instead clocked Devin in the head.
“Devin got his head cracked open,” Zeke said, “and we had to rush him to the hospital. I never saw dad freak out so much.”
Dale can kind of laugh about now, but at the time, it was downright traumatic. He rushed to his youngest son, tore off his own T-shirt and wrapped it around Devin’s head to stop the bleeding.
“There was this lady reading a book in the park,” Dale said. “After I did this and I’m trying to get everybody in the van, I can see her looking over her book, like ‘You are such an awful parent.’ Jeez lady, you couldn’t get up and offer to help? She just sat there and judged me.”
For all of Devin’s trials and tribulations, he has blossomed as an athlete. He finished 15th at the Class 1A state golf tournament as a junior, and was a unanimous all-conference selection as a second baseman this past spring. He was voted his team’s defensive MVP as a sophomore and junior.
He’s come to appreciate the sometimes rocky road he had to endure to get to where he is athletically.
“I didn’t really like it then,” said Devin of his older brothers’ actions, “but now I look back, it helped me a lot. Back then, I couldn’t really do anything because I was chubby and slow, and I knew I had to be better if I was going to be able to compete.”
“He picked up a lot of things from being the little guy on the block,” Dale said.
• See more information on the Hartman family on Page B9.