Bandits utilizing traveling players

July 1, 2012

Manitowoc might not jump out as a prime summer vacation destination for someone used to being closer to the Pacific Ocean than Door County.

Wisconsin State League

Manitowoc might not jump out as a prime summer vacation destination for someone used to being closer to the Pacific Ocean than Door County.

That hasn’t stopped eight out-of-state players, seven of which hail from either Washington or Oregon, from spending their summer playing baseball for the Manitowoc Bandits of the Northeast Wisconsin Baseball League and the Wisconsin State League.

The lone player not from either of those states is pitcher/manager Jason McCurry, who, like LeBron James, left Akron, Ohio, for someplace closer to the water. The difference is he’ll be gone before the only swimsuit you’d see are from swimmers taking a polar plunge instead of suntanning on South Beach.

“I’ve played baseball in a few different parts of the country,” said McCurry. “The chance to play ball in the Midwest really appealed to me after having played in the the north and southeast.”

A chance to live near Lake Michigan might appeal to some players, but there’s still the business at hand — baseball.

Players for the Bandits do not receive any monetary compensation since most are still amateurs and need to stay in compliance with eligibility restrictions.

This means players tend to find part-time jobs to help pay for their travel expenses and lodging while in Manitowoc. These jobs are rarely glamorous, with most current players either busing tables or washing cars at local dealerships.

The money they receive won’t make them millionaires, but it allows them to do what they love, which is to play baseball and keeping the dream of playing in the major leagues alive.

Another benefit of playing summer baseball with the Bandits is it gives young players a chance to gain much needed experience.

“College baseball can be stressful for a 19 year old,” said Bandits Vice President James Maurer. “That kid is always wondering if they are playing that day, or how to make it into the lineup. Summer ball is much more relaxed.”

For all the the sacrifices these players make, Maurer is well aware of what type of commitment it is but points out there definitely are benefits.

“These kids definitely take a leap of faith when coming out here,” added Maurer. “The competition we play in the Wisconsin State League and Northeastern Wisconsin League is outstanding and as good as any team in the Midwest. In addition, we provide the opportunity to play with wood bats which, for those with professional baseball aspirations, is another plus.”

The level of competition and the Bandits history was a major reason McCurry said him and his fellow players were referred to play in Manitowoc.

“A lot of our players were told by their coaches about the type of baseball being played in the area, and how it would help them improve as players,” said McCurry.

Summer baseball might also be the first time a player has been several states away from home for an extended period of time, with many players playing for a school closer to home. In fact, the average distance from home to their school for the seven out-of-state players still amateurs is around six hours. That’s roughly the time it takes to go from Manitowoc to the Mall of America.

With that in mind, it makes sense for teammates to chose the same summer league team to create a sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment.

“A baseball team truly is like a family,” said pitcher Nick Scourey. “The more familiar faces you have around you the tighter knit everyone will be.”

Of the original eight players from out-of-state, half spent their spring as Whitworth University Pirates in Spokane, Wash. before interning as Bandits.

Outfielder Thomas Waken, Nick Motsinger (infielder), Scourey and Taylor Isadore (pitcher/outfielder) helped lead the Pirates to their second-best season ever with a 31-16-1 record overall and a Northwest Conference championship.

Motsinger played an integral part in that season, finishing first in walks (29), third in batting average (.323), on base percentage (.424), doubles (12), stolen bases (11), fourth in slugging (.400), runs (38), hits (63), RBI (34) and total bases (78). Motsinger unfortunately suffered a knee injury early in the Bandits’ season and went back home.

On the mound, Isadore led the Pirates in appearances (17), all but one coming in relief.

The other school to provide multiple players is Willamette University in Salem, Ore., which is where Brad Breier and Andrew Wilson spent their freshman seasons.

Breier saw limited action, posting a .333 average on 12 plate appearances. Wilson had 37 at bats for the Bearcats and had nine hits and 10 RBI. He also hit three home runs and posted a .500 slugging percentage.

Anthony Pitsch (Spokane Falls Community College) joins McCurry as the only players who traveled without teammates to Manitowoc. McCurry most recently played for the Akron Horn Frogs, being named Most Valuable Pitcher of the 2011 playoffs. During the playoffs he threw eight innings, allowing one hit and striking out nine.

Even if the seven players still in Manitowoc come from different hometowns, while playing for the Bandits they all stay at Clare Hall at Silver Lake College. The players pay the same rate for housing as students staying over the summer.

Rachel Fischer, director of Residence Life and Student Activities at Silver Lake said both the Bandits and Silver Lake benefit from the arrangement. It creates a sense of community for players in a new environment and players don’t have to worry about finding housing for the summer.

Many factors might have led these seven players to choose Manitowoc, but there is one thing McCurry has taken away in his short time here.

“The area has some nice baseball and even nicer people.”

Story by: Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter

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