When life gives you lemons— or a global pandemic—make lemonade, right?
The Lansing Lugnuts, the Midwest League Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, are taking that motto to heart this summer, sponsoring a popup collegiate summer baseball league to be played at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing, Michigan, over the next month.
The two-team league features a variety of unique concepts and will consist of college baseball players from Michigan colleges and universities, or players who live in the area, to limit travel and give local athletes an opportunity to work on their craft before returning to school for fall workouts.
A 20-game schedule consisting of seven-inning contests, yellow baseballs, and an extra-inning rule that forces a home run derby to determine a winner are some of the more unique features the Lemonade League will implement. The league will begin competition on Thursday night, July 23rd, with free streams of games available via the Lansing Lugnuts Facebook and Twitter streams.
Five current Mid-American Conference players from three affiliated programs are slated to play for either the Collegiate Locos or the Collegiate Lugnuts over the coming weeks, including:
- Logan Buczkowski (CMU junior pitcher, Lugnuts): Buczkowski has been an important piece to the Chippewa’s bullpen over the last three seasons, limiting opponents to a .188 batting average across 67.2 career innings, striking out 94 and recording a career-record of 5-1 with a 5.99 ERA.
- Zach Heeke (CMU senior third baseman, Locos): One of the more reliable hitters out of the MAC during his career, Heeke has appeared in 175 games for CMU since stepping onto campus as a freshman, posting an impressive career .311 batting average and .455 on-base percentage. During his brief 2020 season, Heeke reached base in 15 of his 17 games played and had recorded eight hits over his final three games before the shutdown. He’s expected to return to campus next season, thanks to an NCAA ruling granting all spring athletes an additional year of eligibility.
- Kade Preston (CMU freshman catcher, Locos):The 6-4 freshman backstop appeared in just eight games this season, but did draw a walk in five of his 20 plate appearances. The extra at-bats in the Lemonade League will be a big boost for Preston’s development. Standout catcher Griffin Lockwood-Powell turned down multiple contract offers after the 2020 MLB draft and will be returning to campus next season, giving Preston another opportunity to learn under one of the top catchers in baseball.
- Darryn Davis (Toledo sophomore infielder, Lugnuts): Davis was having a phenomenal 2020 season at the plate before the season’s abrupt end, hitting .400 with a .532 OBP, six extra-base hits, 17 RBI, and more walks (13) than strikeouts (6). He ranked 2nd in the MAC in batting average and OBP and third in RBI at season’s end. Davis does everything you want your leadoff hitter to do and is a young and exciting piece to build around for head coach Rob Reinstetle and company
- John Holt (EMU senior pitcher, Locos): After logging just 12.2 innings between 2017-18, John Holt missed the entire 2019 season and never had an opportunity to get ramped up on the mound in 2020 before the shutdown. Holt pitched three scoreless frames, including a clean inning work with two strikeouts against Cincinnati in his last outing. The 6-5 righty will look to build his innings ahead of fall ball and one last ride with Eastern Michigan in 2021.
For more information on the Lemonade League, and how you can watch or purchase tickets (or a cardboard cutout!), check out the Lugnuts’ official website.