Jimmies play summer baseball around the country and Canada
Orejudos is trying to follow in the footsteps of past AppleSox alumni like Marco Gonzales, James Kaprielian and Keston Hiura.
JAMESTOWN — Every summer up and down the collegiate baseball ladder, players play in summer leagues. And it's no different at the University of Jamestown, where the program has over 35 players playing for 20 teams in 10 states and three provinces.
“Our coaching staff meets with players in the fall to determine if they need our help and where they want to play,” Jimmies head coach Tom Hager said. “So oftentimes we’ll identify what might be a good fit, a type of league that has a higher level of competition or it might be a place where they’re familiar with the coaches. It might come down to a hometown where they already have an affiliation but yes we try to help them find the best fit for them because ultimately the overall goal is to come back a better player than when they left.”
There are eight players who stayed in Jamestown to play for the Jamestown Elks alongside player-coaches and current Jimmies assistant coaches Ryan Iliff and Alex Sablan. Iliff said it was helpful to have as many players staying in Jamestown and playing for the Elks as they do because it lets them keep track of the workout plan they put together.
“It’s up to them to get their daily work in but then get to see them continue to grow on the field and our guys have been doing a really good job," Iliff said. "We’ve had some guys that have made really nice adjustments and have had successful summers so far.”
There are players playing in the summer who haven’t stepped foot on campus as students yet, including incoming freshmen Troy Berg, who is playing for the Dickinson Roughriders American Legion team.
“I’m still young, I gotta another year if I want to come back,” Berg said. “I just enjoy playing baseball. It’s a chance to get better before the college season. It gives me something to do in the summer.”
The University of Jamestown baseball schedule is unique in that that they play their first regular season game on Sept. 16. As a result, rising senior Kendall Yackley and his teammates go straight from summer ball with very little if any time off straight into playing for the Jimmies.
“It helps me a great deal,” Yackley said. “Our league, you get a wide range of experiences that you see. There are some guys that are playing after their freshman year and there are a couple ex-pro guys and a couple ex-big league guys that have been playing professional baseball their whole life so to be able to play against them and experience that and take that back to Jamestown, it helps a lot.”
Another rising senior on the Jimmies roster is infielder Xander Orejudos, who is playing in the West Coast League for the Wenatchee AppleSox alongside multiple NCAA Division I players. Orejudos has played in 22 games, hitting .294 with four doubles, eight RBIs, 16 walks and five stolen bases. Orejudos said playing with Division I players and succeeding is giving him confidence.
“Honestly, it’s good for me,” Orejudos said. “It makes me play with a little a chip on my shoulder. I see the talent level that I’m at so playing with these guys and hanging in with them makes me confident and happy I guess.”
The two teams that have the most Jimmies on them are the Elks and the Gate City Grays, which play in the Northern Utah League and have junior pitcher Trei Hough, sophomore catcher Triston Madison, senior pitcher Payson Mills, and senior outfielder Austin Shirley.
“It is an amazing experience. Since the group of us had such good chemistry up in North Dakota it translated down to Idaho,” Mills said. “We see what we can do to help better each other whether that be pitching, hitting or fielding since we have seen each other play for a whole year.”
While Hager and his staff worry about players playing in leagues they are unfamiliar with for head coaches they are unfamiliar with because of potential misuse of pitchers, Mills is one player they don’t have to worry about. Mills and the rest of his Grays teammates are coached by former Dickinson State Blue Hawk Rhys Pope. Pope and Mills also grew up together and played at junior college Treasure Valley together before going to their respective local schools.
“It is really strange sometimes because we try to be serious but we have seen each other so much through the years we can’t take each other serious at times,” Mills said. “But, it is also nice because we can read each other very well and know what the next move should be.”
A lot of the Jimmies are playing close to home, which allows their family to come watch them play, which is different from the college season. That is the case for Yackley, who is from Lynwood, Washington, which is less than an hour north of Fall City, where he plays for the Honkers.
“It’s very nice because at Jamestown they’re not able to be at the games in person,” Yackley said. “They can only watch over the livestream and you can only get so much out of that but for them to actually be in the stands and watch me play, it’s special."