FARGO – The Sandy boys and the Bryant boys do everything together.

They go hunting together. They go fishing together. They win North Dakota state baseball championships together.

In 1987, Jim Honl coached Tim Sandy and Donn Bryant to a North Dakota Class 1A state American Legion baseball championship when they were 16 years old.

Twenty-seven years later, in 2014, Honl won a North Dakota Babe Ruth state baseball championship, but this time with Tim Sandy and Donn Bryant’s 16-year-old sons, Luke Sandy and Ben Bryant.

“It’s pretty remarkable, honestly,” Luke Sandy said about the championships. “(Jim) is a great player himself and just knows how to win.”

Luke Sandy, like his father, plays shortstop and pitcher. Ben Bryant, like his dad, enjoys playing second base best.

“Tim was a really good lefty batter and Luke is the same way – he’s leading our team in hitting,” Honl said. “And Donn was fundamentally sound, and so is Ben.”

Honl has only coached two teams to championships. Both times he has had players with the names Sandy and Bryant on the backs of jerseys.

“I didn’t really think about it until the state tournament,” Honl said. “Then Luke turned 16 during the tournament and Tim was 16 at the time and everything was falling into place, so it was kind of neat.”

This year, Luke Sandy and Ben Bryant’s team defeated West Fargo to take home state championship hardware. The team is playing in this week’s Babe Ruth Central Plains Regional Tournament in Albia, Iowa. In 1987, not only did Tim Sandy and Donn Bryant win it all with the 16-year-old Fargo Bombers team, they went on to beat the older Fargo Post 2 team in the Class 2A state tournament.

“I just remember us getting off the bus to play the big team and they were all laughing and they didn’t take it seriously,” Donn Bryant said. “We were just a 16-year-old team that beat the big guys.”

On the coaching front, not much has changed for Honl. According to the fathers, he’s still competitive and has a lot to teach.

“It doesn’t seem like he’s changed,” Tim Sandy said. “He’s a competitor, but a quiet competitor. He leads by example, and it just seems to work well for the kids that play for him.”

Both fathers and both sons attest to Honl’s competitive, good-hearted nature.

“He’s a fun coach and knows what he’s doing,” Ben Bryant said. “He’s a fun-to-be-around – funny guy. Extremely nice and a great coach.”

After Tim Sandy and Donn Bryant’s season, Honl took 19 years off from coaching. He got back in the game when his son, Jacob Honl, began playing baseball. Jacob Honl is currently on Luke Sandy and Ben Bryant’s team.

But, according to Tim Sandy, he’s always been a winner.

“Jim has just always been a serious competitor and just likes to teach the boys a lot,” Tim Sandy said. “He’s obviously a winner – this group of kids and then 27 years ago. He’s just been a winner all these years.”

Jim Honl credits his success to the players, though.

“I think the similarities for me go back to the talent that you have,” Jim Honl said. “You don’t have the success without the talented players, and Tim and Donn were those talented players 27 years ago, and their sons are right there at the top of our players now.”

As time goes by, the Sandys and the Bryants similarities continue to grow.

“It’s neat because Tim and I grew up together and played together,” Donn Bryant said. “Even our 12-year-olds are playing together, and we coach that team together. Any time you watch your kids play anything, it brings joy to your life.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live