PLAY BALL!

Opening day is here for the FD Gypsum Miners at Patterson Field

Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Drew DeMers, a college baseball player from South Dakota, poses at The Messenger. DeMers is playing for the newly-formed Fort Dodge Gypsum Miners this summer in the Pioneer Collegiate Baseball League. Their home will be Patterson Field.

*Editor’s note: This series follows the on and off the field experiences of Drew DeMers, a college baseball player. DeMers is playing the outfield for the Fort Dodge Gypsum Miners this summer at Patterson Field. He will also be volunteering in various ways throughout the city. DeMers is staying with staff writer Chad Thompson at his home in Fort Dodge.

Drew DeMers is ready to step into the batter’s box and take his first at-bats as a Fort Dodge Gypsum Miner tonight at Patterson Field.

DeMers is a junior outfielder at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota.

His Gypsum Miner teammates are college baseball players from around the United States.

First pitch for the wood bat game is set for 5 p.m. at the historic venue in southeast Fort Dodge, where the Gypsum Miners will take on the Peak Prospects of Ames.

DeMers said he can’t wait to get the games going.

It’s been a wet spring in both South Dakota and Iowa. As a result, there haven’t been many opportunities to play ball.

“It’s been raining every single day in South Dakota, so I haven’t had a chance to swing the bat,” DeMers said on Memorial Day, when he arrived in Fort Dodge. “The Iowa Central facilities look really nice here, so looking forward to taking advantage of that.”

The 21-year-old slugger drove about five-and-a-half hours from his hometown of Winner, S.D. to join his teammates here.

With his bat, glove, cleats, clothes, and a couple of books, DeMers is set to drop anchor in Fort Dodge for the next couple of months during the Pioneer Collegiate Baseball League season.

The league welcomes some of the country’s top college-aged talent for a full slate of games against squads from Bancroft, Ames, Carroll, Storm Lake and Albert Lea, Minn. The Gypsum Miner players are staying with host families in Fort Dodge.

Connor McLeod, the Gypsum Miners’ manager and Iowa Central assistant coach, said the PCBL is different because it’s a collection of players from colleges across the country.

“We are bringing in college players from all over the country to play together in this league compared to a college team where everyone is from that same school,” McLeod said.

The atmosphere should make for an enjoyable fan experience, he said.

“It has that small-town Iowa feel to it,” McLeod said. “There’s some unique little ballparks around Iowa and the one up in Minnesota. It’s a family friendly atmosphere and a chance to enjoy some college baseball.”

DeMers, a criminal justice major, said he loves the strategy involved in the game of baseball. So when the opportunity was presented to him to compete in a summer league, he was all ears.

“How many situations can happen in a play or how one pitch can change the outcome,” he said. “The slow pace of it. I like the thinking behind the game. It’s the constant chess match that’s going on. It’s really fun.”

Throughout the week, DeMers did take advantage of Triton facilities, including the indoor batting cages in Pleasant Valley. There he was able to test his exit velocity on batted balls.

One of the balls he smashed registered at 85 mph, he said.

At Dakota Wesleyan, DeMers finished his sophomore season a with a .354 batting average, good for second on the team and one of the top averages in that league.

Since arriving in the city, DeMers has also had an opportunity to sample some home-town Fort Dodge favorites. On Wednesday he tried wontons from the local Hy-Vee. And on Thursday he ate beef enchiladas from Taco Tico.

“Oh yeah,” he said after taking a bite of the enchiladas. “They’re good.”

DeMers ended up in Fort Dodge after McLeod contacted coaches at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., about the possibility sending a player here to play in the PCBL.

The coaches there believed DeMers would be a strong candidate.

“I thought it would be really good competition and something I wanted to try at least once in my life,” DeMers said.

McLeod said the PCBL should be a nice fit for the community.

“Fort Dodge has been great to me as a community member; it’s such a baseball-loving community,” McLeod said. “I am happy to have the city of Fort Dodge be part of this team and the league.”

*This series will run Wednesday and Saturday of every week until the end of the season.

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