Belding baseball has three players sign letters of intent to play in college


By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 3:26 pm on Friday, May 05, 2017

Three Belding baseball players joined together to sign their letters of intent to continue their baseball careers into college Thursday. Logan Campbell, left, will play ball at Mesa Community College in Arizona, Anthony “Ant” Baltruczak will play at Olivet College, and Dylan McMaster signed to play with Concordia University. (Daily News | Ryan Schlehuber)

 

BELDING — It was a bittersweet day for Dave Riches, as he saw three of his Belding baseball players sign letters of intent Thursday to play at the collegiate level next year, which also meant he will soon be losing his big-time players.

Starting pitcher Logan Campbell, outfielder and pitcher Dylan McMaster and infielder Anthony “Ant” Baltruczak decided to sign their letters of intent to play baseball and attend their respective colleges.

Many Belding student-athletes, parents and friends came to watch, from left in front, Dylan McMaster, Logan Campbell and Anthony Baltruczak sign letters of intent Thursday to play college baseball next year. Behind them are, at left, assistant coach Jim Crusz and head coach Dave Riches.

Campbell will attend Mesa Community College in Arizona, McMaster will play at Concordia University and Baltruczak heads to Olivet College next fall.

Belding baseball coach Dave Riches, who, along with other coaches, players’ parents and many of the players’ teammates, friends and other Belding student-athletes, attended the signings.

Riches said it was fitting to see all three of them do it together.

“I think today, shows it perfectly. They could’ve chosen to do individual days. We could’ve done three different signing days,” Riches said. “They chose to find a date they could all do it together. That shows a lot about who they are. They’re always putting their team first. They’re buddies.”

Belding Athletic Director Joel Wilker said having other students attend and see such an event can inspire others to reach that “next level,” as well.

“When you look at them, what you’re going to find is that they improved through their careers in high school, they worked hard, that’s how you get to the top,” Wilker said to the audience. “God did bless them with some talent, but what are you going to do with that talent? Are you going to work with it or are you just going to lag with it?

“Each of these gentlemen have worked hard and have grown a lot as players and individuals,” he added. “So we just like to have this opportunity to share with you their successes.”

Riches said all three are irreplaceable on a team that, so far, is 13-5 overall and has won more than 20 games each of the past few seasons. He said the team respects them so much that they have named all three of them captains.

“They know what I want, they know how we need to get there,” he said. “They’re just three more coaches on the field for us.”

Having three players from Belding go to the next level of sports is something quite special to Riches.

“It’s awesome. We’re little Belding, and to have three of them — not only that, but at different levels, from Div. III to a junior college team that is one of the best in the country — it’s a big deal,” he said. “Other students might not get it here, but little kids are seeing this and hopefully they want to follow through with that, too, and keep those kids in baseball and get them to see there is something more out there, too.”

Dylan McMaster is Belding’s centerfielder, but also has been used as a pitcher.

DYLAN MCMASTER

Dylan McMaster chose Concordia University for its location, stating it’s both far enough away yet close enough to home.

“I like Concordia because I really like the smaller feel,” McMaster said. “The coaching staff there is great. When I went for a tour, they made me feel like I was at home.”

McMaster, who was brought up during districts playoffs in his freshman year, plans to study sports and entertainment management.

He said what he’s learned most about his time with the Belding baseball team and the school is how to become a good leader.

“I think it has taught me how to be a leader and motivate guys to get the job done,” McMaster said.

With the dream of playing college baseball coming true when he signed his name to the letter of intent with Concordia, McMaster said he never thought this day would come.

“I never really thought I’d be playing at the next level. I was a scrawny kid and didn’t think I had any chance,” he laughed.

The Concordia Cardinals, who play in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics division, are currently 41-11 overall. They are currently ranked 35th in the nation.

Riches called McMaster described McMaster as a spider with the outfield his web, where nothing falls through.

“With Dylan, if you watch our games, eight guys are running off the field before the out if it’s hit to the outfield because we know Dylan is going to catch it,” Riches said. “Concordia is getting a special outfielder.”

McMaster’s parents are Chris and Jeff McMaster from Belding.

Logan Campbell is Belding’s ace pitcher.

LOGAN CAMPBELL

It took nothing other than a simple YouTube video featureing Chicago Cubs star player Kris Bryant to get Logan Campbell’s attention towards Mesa Community College in Arizona.

“It was a video of Kris Bryant pranking his college (team) and that made me think of them and figured I’d look into it,” Beldings four-year pitching ace said.

From there, emails between Campbell and Mesa’s coach ensued and, after visiting the campus and working out a bullpen session, Campbell was sold.

“It’s a beautiful place. They’re actually ranked as one of the biggest community colleges in the nation. And I really want that bigger college feeling, so I decided to go that way,” Campbell said. “Being able to play that type of baseball at that level, I can’t beat that.”

Riches described Campbell as a serious pitcher with lots of talent but also a leader who can loosen up a team.

“Logan, four-year varsity player, and full of no-hitters and, this season, every game but one with double-digit strikeouts,” Riches said. “His ERA is barely over one, pretty impressive. Great first basement, great hitter, great kid. He can get a little squirrelly with me sometimes, but he keeps it interesting.”

The Mesa Thunderbirds won a Division II national championship in 2014 and currently are 41-15 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. They are ranked No. 12 in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Campbell plans to study business, striving to one day open his own business.

Campbell said he learned how to handle failure in sports and in life during his time at Belding.

“I learned to like the passion for the game. You’re going to fail in a game,” he said. “So I told myself that if I fail then just get back in there and keep on going. If I keep doing that, I think I’ll succeed.”

Campbell’s parents are Larry and Crisanna Campbell of Belding.

Belding’s second baseman Anthony “Ant” Baltruczak has been versatile enough to cover several positions in the infield in his three years playing at the varsity level.

ANTHONY ‘ANT’ BALTRUCZAK

Anthony “Ant” Baltruczak is as serious on the ballfield as he is about his studies, thus, he said, Olivet College is a great place to continue to play baseball but also to get a good education.

“The campus is small. It’s kind of like I’m going back to another Belding, but that’s what I like because I’m focusing on school and baseball. There will be no interruptions in there,” Baltruczak said. “I picked Olivet College because it felt great there, I felt at home, and of all the schools I was choosing from, they made me at home the most and comfortable with my decision.”

Baltruczak, who has been with Riches for the past three years on varsity, has been a versatile player for him, being able to play all the infield positions except first base, but usually is Belding’s second baseman.

“Ant is one of the smoothest defensive players I’ve seen, no errors,” Riches said about Baltruczak. “He actually has our only home run this year. Crushed one at Lansing Sexton for us. He’s our vocal leader. He’s one yelling and getting guys going.”

Baltruczak said his off-season workout has helped him excel both on defense and at the plate this year.

During his years with Belding, Baltruczak said it is having a short-term memory and getting over mistakes quickly that has been his biggest learning lesson playing baseball.

“Baseball is a quick game. You’re always going to have another game. You’ll have another game, possibly the next day. So a short memory helps a lot because if you make one bad error it can turn into two if you keep thinking about it, and so that’s not good.”

Baltruczak, who is undecided on what to study at Olivet College, will help a rebuilding Division III Olivet Comets team improve next year on its 7-29 record from this season.

His parents are Mike and Amanda Baltruczak of Belding.

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