Of the record 21 Whitties who played summer collegiate baseball this season, three honed their skills at home with the Walla Walla Sweets.
Pitcher and economics major Milo Mincin ’19; pitcher and mathematics and pre-computer science major Patrick Stanton ’19, who is in the 3-2 engineering program and attending Columbia University this fall; and infielder and history and economics major Joseph Zimmer ’18, also the team captain, competed for the professionally operated club, whose home games take place at the 2,376-seat Borleske Stadium.
Their summer experience built upon successes achieved last spring with the Whitman squad. Mincin pitched 17 games for the college. Stanton played in 18 games and earned the Bob Thomsen Award at last year’s Whitman Athletics Senior Award Ceremony. Zimmer, who plays in both the infield and outfield, slammed six home runs and knocked in 28 runs, with a .397 batting average; he was named All-Northwest Conference first team in 2016 and was a 2017 Pre-Season All-America selection by d3baseball.com.
For Zimmer, signing with the Sweets was a no-brainer: “Being able to play in front of big crowds every night has been one of the most memorable experiences,” he said.
“I think it’s great for them to be able to play in front of a hometown crowd and represent Whitman to our community,” echoed Blues Head Coach Brian Kitamura ’10. “Being able to see strong competition on a consistent basis is really beneficial for our guys and their development.”
Blues Assistant Coach Bill Sizemore added, “The hope is by playing for such teams, players will get valuable experience against better competition and improve their baseball skills.”
That came true for Mincin, Stanton and Zimmer, who appeared in numerous games. (The trio played on separate collegiate summer teams last year, Zimmer in the Great West League for the Marysville Gold Sox, Mincin in the Pacific International League for the Snoqualmie Valley Hurricanes and Stanton in the Northwest Collegiate League for the Pilchuck Pioneers.)
The Sweets are part of the West Coast League, which is comprised of student athletes from across the nation and managed like a minor league team. Placement is by invitation or with the recommendation and support of a school’s coaching staff.
The uptick in Bluesmen playing in the summer collegiate league correlates with Whitman’s success these past few seasons—from six wins in 2015 to 13 wins in 2016 to 17 last season, the second most in the last 35 years. Although the team came up one game short of the conference tournament last year, their finish was the highest since 2001.