Linfield's boys of summer keep playing
At least 12 Wildcats are on rosters in collegiate summer leagues, which offer a change of pace from the intensity of the college season and allow for skill development and experience.
Seven of the players who made an appearance in Linfield's historic 4-1 victory over Southern Maine in the D3 national championship game May 28 are among those who are immersed in a summer of baseball.
"It's been a blast," Kramer Lindell said Monday as he was waiting with his team, the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast League, for a ferry to Victoria, B.C.
Lindell, who played center field for Linfield, is enjoying a time-honored tradition for college baseball players who want to take full advantage of the summer weather and an opportunity to keep getting better.
"It's go-go-go," Lindell said. "You play every day. (Individual) games aren't quite as important as during the college season."
Lindell's teammates at Walla Walla include players from USC, UCLA, Washington State, New Mexico State, UC-Irvine, Gonzaga, Utah, North Dakota State and a variety of others. Wildcats teammate Jake Wylie is also a member of the team but has been injured and hasn't played so far. (He is expected to join the team soon, Lindell said).
The rosters have a similar make-up across all nine teams in the West Coast League. Linfield's Jackson Ruckert and Jo Carroll play for the Bend Elks, Nick Fisher is with the Klamath Falls Gems and Corey VanDomelen is with the Cowlitz Black Bears.
The season is 56 games and runs from June 4 to Aug. 11, and the players typically stay with host families.
"I'm getting 24 at-bats a week and lots of playing time," Lindell said. "I'm playing every day, which helps you grow so much more as a player."
Lindell, who is batting leadoff for Walla Walla, hit a first-inning home run on the Fourth of July to lead the Sweets to a 5-4 victory over the Kitsap BlueJackets.
Meanwhile, pitcher Chris Haddeland is spending his second summer playing for the Swift Current Indians of Canada's Western Major Baseball League. Situated on the plains of Saskatchewan, Swift Current is a remote baseball locale. Haddeland, a former standout at McMinnville High, spends a lot of time on the team's bus. Three- to five-hour commutes to away games are the norm.
Haddeland landed the opportunity to go to Swift Current through Brandon Rupp, a coaching connection at George Fox.
"I don't know if it's quite the level of (West Coast League), but it's good competition," Haddeland said.
One of his Swift Current teammates is Oregon State's Max Gordon. Most of the roster is comprised of college players from the U.S.
After a dominant season capped by a victory in the championship game, Haddeland approached the season with a couple of specific goals.
"I wanted to put up better numbers (at Swift Current) than last year, and I want to work on stuff with a couple of my pitches," he said. "I'm lifting a lot and hoping that if I can get bigger and stronger that it will increase my velocity."
In contrast with a player like Lindell, who is looking for as much action as he can, Haddeland is not looking to see how many innings he can get. He wants to make quality starts, but he also wants to spend his time studying his craft.
"I really want to work on things that I didn't have time to do while I was at school," he said.
Any improvement by Haddeland, of course, is good news for Linfield, which finished 42-8 and won the school's first NCAA title in baseball. Haddeland was 15-1 with a scant 1.07 ERA and was MVP of the D3 College World Series in Appleton, Wis.
The summer baseball landscape, of course, has a vast array of layers and leagues from Major League Baseball on down to Little League. For the college player, there are a variety of options. Linfield players benefit from coach Scott Brosius helping players find summer opportunities.
It's up to the player to make the best of them.
"This is what I want to do with my life, play baseball," Lindell said. "I want to do this as long as I can. It's definitely a grind sometimes, but in the end it's worth it."
Linfield pitcher Chris Beresford is playing for the Dust Devils of the Arizona Wood Bat League. On June 28 he announced via Twitter that it was "officially 117 degrees."
Logan Norris will likely come back with a different story from his time with the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Grizzlies of the Premier College Baseball League.
Occasionally, the Wildcats find each other when schedules intersect.
Lindell said he was able to spend some time with Nick Fisher when Walla Walla played Klamath Falls.
“During batting practice we got to hang out a bit,” said Lindell, who played for Klamath Falls last summer. “(Nick) and I talk a lot.”