Thu, Jul. 21, 2011 - [Baseball]
Plenty of folks are wondering if the NFL players on their favorite team have been getting together on their own for unofficial “workouts” this summer. Plenty more are wondering if their favorite basketball players will be headed overseas while the NBA labor dispute rages on.
Those wondering if the Duhawks baseball team has been using their summer break to improve heading into the 2012 season will be happy know that pitchers Spencer Radabaugh and Ben Cottrell, along with infielder Mike Pudlo have been playing all over the Midwest this summer. They each hope to return to Loras as better baseball players thanks to this summer’s experiences with the Waterloo Bucks, the Licking County Settlers, and the Fulton Railroaders.
As spring slowly changed over to summer this year, Dubuque native Ben Cottrell headed back to Waterloo, Iowa to join the Bucks for the second straight year under former Loras College assistant coach Jason Nell. The Waterloo Bucks play in the Northwoods League.
“I was there for three weeks to start the season this time,” Cottrell said this week.
“The atmosphere is obviously great. We are playing in front of big crowds and spending pretty much our whole day surrounded by baseball.”
So how much does it differ from classes in the morning, with a mix of practices and games in the afternoons and evenings as a college student – compared to the daily trips to the ballpark and the sometimes empty mornings as a summer league player?
“The schedule can make the days feel long sometimes, but I get lifting and running in,” Cottrell said of the Waterloo setup.
He routinely arrived five hours before first pitch for batting practice - among other things - and had some field preparation to do as one of the Bucks’ pitchers. The home games are followed by some fan interaction and autograph sessions.
Mike Pudlo, Loras’ shortstop during the 2011 season, who is playing in the small town of Fulton, Kentucky echoed some of the same scheduling differences.
“The competition is good and the schedule can be tough,” Pudlo added - saying that he feels like as a NCAA Division III guy he “fits in well”.
His only other teammate who also hails from a Division III school was leading the league in hitting for much of the early part of the season.
Pudlo, a now-sophomore from Grayslake, Illinois is one of two Division III players on the roster and inquired about playing for the team a year ago when his brother was with the Fulton Railroaders of the newly formed Ohio Valley League. A year later, after that visit to watch his brother play, he found himself headed south.
“I reported on June 1 and we’re playing over 40 games in June and July as part of the league,” Pudlo noted.
“I’ve been rotating in the middle infield spots with a few of the other guys.”
Spencer Radabaugh, who will return for his final season with the Duhawks in 2012, has been a half hour drive east of Columbus, Ohio in Newark. He is a proud member of the Licking County Settlers.
“We have a really good team,” Radabaugh started with earlier this week.
He also cited the daily grind of these types of leagues compared to the traditional small college baseball experience.
“We’ll only get seven days off in two months, and so we treat them as just that, off days, especially when the temperatures during a two week stretch are reaching above 90 (degrees) seemingly every day.”
“The hitters here are much more patient and less likely to chase pitches out of the zone (than in the IIAC),” Radabaugh noted.
So what else do these summer teams provide the players?
For Pudlo, being recognized in the small town of Fulton by the children who come to the games was a bit different. The access to the local movie theater has kept him up to date on his summer movies. Not to mention the nicknames generated among his teammates and the different accents and speaking habits of the folks in Kentucky – and on the roster - keeping him on his toes.
For Cottrell, a junior-to-be with the Duhawks, he was able to mix in some rounds of golf during his stint in Waterloo - and also battled strike zones on game day that he simply calls “smaller” than in the Iowa Conference.
For Radabaugh, it means also chipping in at a part time job with some flexible hours in the mornings while enjoying the experience alongside some new friends.
And as far as what they’ll be bringing back to Dubuque in the fall, and, eventually the 2012 season?
“I’m slowing turning into a ground ball pitcher and really working on keeping the ball down,” Cottrell says.
“I’m living five minutes from the field, and I feel like having the time in the weight room has made me stronger,” Pudlo points out.
“I’ve also taken a ton of ground balls and been able to figure out some things on offense.”
“Keeping yourself in the middle emotionally and the day-to-day mental preparation have been a big part of this (experience) for me,” Radabaugh proclaimed. “I also think I’ll be more prepared to help our Loras team push to the next level. We’re not that far from doing great things. We just need to build on the things we’ve got.”
That building begins with “Fall Ball” in September back at Loras College.
For now, they’ll continue riding out the heat wave of the summer of 2011 on the coach buses and baseball diamonds of the Midwest.
Fulton Railroaders Website
Licking County Settlers Website
Waterloo Bucks Website