Lobo Baseball Players Spend Their Summers Playing Nothing Other Than...Baseball
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/02/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 2, 2010

written by Jordan Unverzagt, student intern

While many spring athletes enjoy a few weeks off at the end of their season to recover, the Lobo baseball team relinquishes even the thought of a vacation. Instead of suiting up in swim trunks, 10 Lobos are suiting up in baseball uniforms and competing all summer long. Because the Lobos' spring season ended on June 6 and collegiate summer ball seasons start as early as May 28, some of the players had to replace swimming laps with overlapping schedules.

Summer baseball leagues are located throughout the United States and Canada, giving collegiate baseball players an opportunity to continue and improve their game while school is out. It is also an opportunity to work with student-athletes from other colleges around the country.

"It's fun meeting new guys from around the country and from different schools," sophomore-to-be Alex Allbritton says of his summer experience. Allbritton is playing with the Kelowna Falcons of British Columbia, Canada. The Kelowna Falcons Baseball Club is a wood bat summer collegiate league that attracts the best baseball players in the western half of North America. The Falcons are currently 20-24 and will end their season on the 5th of August. Allbritton has had 13 runs, 26 hits, 14 RBI, and is holding a .217 batting average for the Falcons so far. "Summer ball is a time to keep our skills sharp and have fun. It's good to experience something other than school ball," Allbritton said.

In preparation for his sophomore year, Mitchell Garver is playing with the St. Cloud River Bats of St. Cloud, Minn. The River Bats are 30-22, which places them at the top of the north division of the Northwoods Summer Baseball League. Garver's favorite part of playing summer ball is the number of games on their schedule. "In the Northwoods League you get to play everyday. You're getting a lot of reps in, which helps train you for pro ball," Garver said. One may think with so many games, it is tough to remain consistent and effective, but Garver's stats show otherwise. In 30 games he has had 22 hits and held a batting average of .232. "Summer ball is a chance to come back from the summer and into the fall season as a better player than when you left the spring season. It's a chance to become better every time you step on the field," said Garver. The River Bats season comes to an end on August 16.

Fellow Lobos and redshirt freshmen Zak Miller and Brett Doe have competed against Garver this summer on several occasions. Their team, the Thunder Bay Border Cats of Ontario, Canada, are in the north division of the Northwoods League. The Border Cats are currently 23-30 and will end their season on August 16 before playoffs begin. Miller leads the league in wins, has pitched in 17 games and is 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA. Miller played against Lobo teammate, Rudy Jaramillo, at the Northwoods North/South All-Star game on July 20. Only 26 players were selected from the league to participate. Miller recorded two outs for the North team in relief, as the North went on the win, 7-5.

Jaramillo, an upcoming junior, is spending his summer with the Eau Claire Express of Eau Claire, Wisc. The Express is now 36-16, leading the South Division of the Northwoods League. Jaramillo has had 26 strikeouts, pitched 43 innings, and holds a 2.30 ERA this summer season. His team will finish their season on August 16 before beginning playoffs.

Three Lobos whose season in Palms Springs, Calif. is over for the summer are up-and-coming sophomore Jacob Nelson, and soon to be juniors, Ben Woodchick and Gabe Aguilar. Their team, Palm Spring Power, ended their season on July 23 with a record of 34-4, the best winning percentage in the history of the franchise, and a first-place finish in the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League (SCCBL) standings. Nelson ended the season with seven hits in 16 games and a .212 batting average. Woodchick finished with a batting average of .240 and had 12 hits in 21 games. Aguilar pitched to a 3.05 ERA and had 30 strikeouts.

The remaining Lobos playing summer ball are sophomores Cody Voelker and Austin House. Voelker spent his summer in Laramie, Wyoming playing for the Colts. The Colts are currently in the playoff phase of their summer season. House remained in New Mexico for the summer to play for the New Mexico collegiate team.

Coach Ray Birmingham likes that his players participate in summer ball as long as it doesn't affect academics. "I like for them to be in a good league, and they're all in good leagues. I like that it gives them more experience, especially for the younger guys. We will continue to make summer leagues a big deal for us here," Birmingham said.

Rafael Neda spent most of his summer playing collegiate summer ball before signing a professional contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on August 1. Neda played for the San Luis San Luis Obispo Blues in California. Their 28-17 record placed the Blues second in the California Collegiate League (CCL). Neda had 28 hits in 27 games and maintained a .277 batting average.

Even though these dedicated baseball players may have missed out on some everyday summer fun, a lot more will be gained from hitting a baseball with a bat than hitting the beach with a towel.