AUBURNDALE, FLA. – Roy Larson and Matt Olson are fortunate baseball players, and not just because they starred on the 2009 St. Thomas team that won the NCAA Division III championship and are leaders of the 2010 squad that is rated No. 1 in the nation.

They also are fortunate because they have grandparents who show up faithfully at fields from Minnesota to Florida to watch their progeny play a game that keeps them young at heart and full of joy.

Larson could be considered doubly blessed on the Tommies’ spring break trip to Florida. All four of his grandparents – Dennis and Mary Jayne Larson of Burnsville and Frank and Betty Schneider of Roseville – sat in the stands of Lake Myrtle Field No. 4 for Saturday’s doubleheader against the University of Chicago. Perched next to them were Matt Olson’s grandparents, Carl and Muriel Olson of Crystal.

The Olsons have followed the athletic exploits of Matt, the Tommies’ fleet rightfielder, since he was in grade school playing football and hockey as well as baseball. Carl, a 1954 St. Thomas graduate in sociology and education, taught English and drama for 37 years at Shakopee High School, where the auditorium is named after him. Muriel worked as a cashier at Lund’s. They have three children and six grandchildren, with Matt the oldest.

“We love baseball,” Carl said. “The college game goes so fast and is so spirited. We enjoy the competition.” Added Muriel: “It’s just exciting. We love to be outdoors, and watching the team win the national title last year was the thrill of a lifetime.” Pointing out how Matt won the Most Outstanding Player award after getting 11 hits in 22 at-bats and scoring 11 times, Carl said: “They couldn’t keep him off the bases, and then they couldn’t stop him on the base paths.”

Roy Larson’s four grandparents have the same kind of pride in Roy, and on Saturday he made them beam a little more when he knocked in six runs with a homer, triple and single in the first game..

Dennis and Mary Jayne are the parents of five children, and they joke that they spend most of their free time at games, what with 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Before they retired, Dennis worked in graphic arts printing and sales, and Mary Jayne was a homemaker.

“Good baseball is rewarding,” Dennis said. “It’s both an individual sport and a team sport.” He appreciates the discipline of St. Thomas’ teams, right down to their well-kept uniforms with the high stockings. Mary Jayne is impressed with the players’ camaraderie “and the way they are working towards a common goal.”

Frank and Betty have three children and five grandchildren. She worked as a bookkeeper and secretary at several churches, and he was a headhunter and – for the last 24 years – a Catholic deacon whose first baptized child was Roy.

“I enjoy coming to games like this,” said Frank who was a catcher on amateur teams in Chanhassen and Victoria as a young man and knows how hard his grandson has worked. Betty calls him “a focused and dedicated ballplayer” who is committed to his teammates. She was thrilled at their national title run last year: “To see them fight so hard and win, it was just so special.”

All of the grandparents like the look and feel of this year’s St. Thomas team, and they plan to take in as many MIAC games as possible over the next six weeks. They know the season still is young and many hurdles remain, but there is nothing more they would enjoy than the chance to return to Appleton, Wis., in late May and watch their grandsons chase another national title.

Roy Larson and Matt Olson indeed are fortunate baseball players, aren’t they?