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Six Hornet baseball players signed to play summer league ball

Ian Kobernick playing baseball.

Gone are the days of summer being a time baseball players take off, or just play in a recreational league a few times a week.  With the boom of high-level summer collegiate baseball leagues across the country increasing the visibility of the sport, as well as the competition level for collegiate baseball players, players are continually looking to get an edge by performing in a variety of these leagues.  These leagues also provide the best exposure for Major League Baseball scouts to see players in a highly competitive environment. 

Also gone are the days that these leagues are only available to top tiered Division 1 programs.  While it's a unique opportunity, the parity of college baseball has allowed several smaller school's players a chance in these summer collegiate leagues and been a platform for both the individual and their respective programs.

That platform has now been opened for Kalamazoo College's baseball program, as it has been a prime focus of Head Coach Mike Ott and his staff since his hiring in 2012. 
"We've talked from day one about getting our program on the national level and one of these ways was utilizing our channels and connections to provide our players, when they were at the necessary level to perform, the opportunity to get into these leagues," said Ott.  "After a few years, our talent base has improved and we are excited to be sending players on our roster all across the country to very well respected leagues." 
Ott, who was the Associate Head Coach/Pitching Coach in the summer of 2014 for the Kalamazoo Growlers in the Northwoods League, has announced that six of his players will be playing in national summer collegiate leagues.
Announced earlier in the fall, sophomore left handed pitcher Aaron Schwark signed in the West Coast League with the Medford Rogues.  The West Coast League is based in the Pacific Northwest and is comprised of some of the top college players.  Sanctioned by Major League Baseball and the NCAA, the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League's players come predominantly from the Pac-10, Big West, WCC and WAC conferences and has had over 100 West Coact league alumni enter into professional baseball. Schwark completed his freshmen season with a 5-2 record and a 3.14 ERA.  In MIAA action, Schwark was fourth in the league with a 2.25 ERA.

Kalamazoo baseball also will be placing Aidan Cullen (Fr., OF), Ian Kobernick (So., OF), Ryan Orr (Fr., RHP) and Mitch VanKoevering (So., SS).

Aidan Cullen and Ian Kobernick will be traveling to Texas to play in the Texas Collegiate League. Cullen, a two time All-State selection out of Notre Dame Prep and the MVP of the Michigan East-West All-Star Classic, signed to play with the Victoria Generals.  Kobernick, who played in every game as a freshmen and set the Kalamazoo single season record for hits (52) while leading the team in hitting with a .377 batting average and coming in second in the MIAA with a .394 batting average and 38 hits, is signed to play for the Woodlands Strykers. The Texas Collegiate League is also sanctioned by Major League Baseball.  Some of the more nationally-recognized schools sending their standouts to the TCL include Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Cal State Fullerton, Dallas Baptist, Houston, Long Beach State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Rice, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
Mitchell VanKoevering, one of Kalamazoo's captains for the 2015 season, will be playing in the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League as a member of the Hamilton Joes.  VanKoevering completed his freshmen season as the everyday shortstop for the Hornets hitting .333 and a team high five triples, to go along with finishing second in the MIAA in hits with 38 and fifth in batting average hitting. 389.  The Great Lakes League was created and is sanctioned by Major League Baseball.  In 2013, the Great Lakes League formed an affiliate league in the state of Michigan called the Michigan Summer Collegiate Baseball League.  This league may form a new division in the Great Lakes League soon and that is the league that Hornets' third baseman Jack Clark is signed to play in as a member of the Michigan Monarchs.  Clark, who enters the 2014 season again as the starting third baseman, played for the Monarchs in the summer of 2013 after completing his freshman campaign as the anchor at the hot corner, playing in 38 of the 42 games, for Kalamazoo.

Rounding out the signings for the Hornets is freshman right-handed pitcher Ryan Orr.  A freshman from Bath High School, Orr rewrote many of the MHSAA pitching records over his time with the Bees ending his career as a three time All-State player and earning the Prep Baseball Report Michigan Player of the Year Award in 2014.  Orr, who will be a dual threat for Kalamazoo as a second baseman and a pitcher, signed with the Kenosha Kingfish of the Northwoods League to aid their pitching staff.  Teams in the Northwoods League play 72 games in 76 days and has more teams, draws more fans and plays more games than any other Summer Collegiate Baseball League.  The Northwoods League is widely acclaimed as one of the top summer leagues in the country behind the Cape Cod League and has alumni such as Andre Ethier, Curtis Granderson, Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmerman.
"I am really proud of our guys for their opportunities," noted Ott.  "It is a unique opportunity for small school guys to get these chances.  They are great ambassadors for our program and have worked extremely hard, been coachable and accountable and have improved each and everyday.  This will be a great step in their growth as baseball players."
All of these leagues are sanctioned by the NCAA and each team is operated in a similar manner to a professional minor league team, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats, minor league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips and playing nightly before fans in a stadium. 
Kalamazoo College begins its season on March 7 and 8 in Richmond, Ind. against Earlham College.

(Pictured: top left - Aaron Schwark, top right - Ian Kobernick, bottom left - Mitch VanKoeverking, bottom right - Jack Clark)