By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Cole Bauml is enjoying the ride.
Hailing from farm country in Muenster, Sask., the 24-year-old outfielder feels fortunate to be one of the few from his province living the dream of playing professional baseball, and he couldn’t be happier for the experiences the game has given him.
Suiting up for the Saskatoon Giants during his days at Lake Lenore High School, Bauml earned a chance to play his post-secondary days at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado. After two years with the Trojans, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound outfielder joined the Northern Kentucky Norse, extending his college experience.
“It’s difficult,” Bauml said. “But [Baseball Saskatchewan high performance director] Greg Brons does a great job with getting guys looks and getting guys offers, so for the players there, you’re not as far away as you think. You can get to school, and first off, I went to junior college, so you can go there and then get an offer somewhere else hopefully, and you get up and it keeps going from there.
“I had never thought about what I would do that much, or what my path would be. I just knew I wanted to continue to play baseball out of high school, so that’s just what I did.”
Selected in the 10th round of the 2015 draft by the Detroit Tigers after his senior year with the Norse, Bauml entered the professional realm shortly thereafter. He learned quickly that he would have to make some adjustments as he transitioned from the college ranks into pro ball.
“It’s not as easy as you’d think,” he said. “There’s a lot of velocity here, so it just takes a little bit of getting used to. But the conference we were in [the Atlantic Sun Conference at the time] was pretty good too, so it hasn’t been too bad. It’s just kind of tough because I’ve got to do what I’m trying to do and they’re trying to obviously not let me do that, so there’s a little bit of an adjustment, but it’s been pretty smooth.
“The biggest transition is probably just getting used to the [velocity]. I’ve always been not too bad with it, so I’m doing alright. I spent my first summer in the Gulf Coast League, and you see a lot of velo there, so I got it right away and it took some getting used to.”
Currently in his third season in the organization, the left-handed hitter has a .241/.294/.343 slash line with one home run, two triples, 10 doubles, 18 runs and 18 RBI in 43 games for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit’s Midwest League affiliate, and is continuing to make strides in his game.
“Honestly, I’ve evolved a lot,” Bauml said. “I used to be an almost dead pull hitter in high school, and now I’m almost the total opposite, so I did a completely 360.”
Keeping an eye on the other professional players from Saskatchewan – with Regina’s Dustin Molleken in triple-A Toledo with the same organization, and North Battleford’s Andrew Albers currently in triple-A Gwinnett with the Braves – Bauml is also on one of the most Canadian teams in pro ball, sharing a locker room with Ontarians Jacob Robson, from Windsor, and Daniel Pinero, from Toronto.
“Greg Brons runs a Facebook page with all Saskatchewan baseball posts, so I keep up with that really well to know what the guys are doing,” Bauml said. “And being here with Danny and Jacob, it really made a difference in the first week, because you have something to talk about. “
To honour the trio of Canucks, the Whitecaps will host Canada Night on Thursday, June 8 against the Great Lakes Loons at Fifth Third Ballpark. For the occasion, the team will wear Canadian jerseys, a Zamboni will be on the warning track for introductions, a Canadian pub will serve beer from north of the border, and more.
“It’s nice just having that group of Canadians and knowing you went through the same thing,” Pinero said. “Playing with teams like the Ontario Blue Jays, or Cole being from Saskatchewan it had to be even harder for him, I know that.
“We see how lucky we are to be here, going through what we did, and we’ve got guys here from Michigan who understand the Canadians too. Guys from California or Florida, they don’t really understand what Canadians go through, when we say we took a fifth year in high school to play with OBJ, that doesn’t exist in America. It’s comforting to have guys who understand.”
Added Robson: “It’s super fun. In college at Mississippi State it was great to have [Kyle] Hann there, and then when he left I don’t want to say it was lonely but that feeling was missing. Then now, most of this team is northern guys, from the Midwest, Minnesota, Michigan, some New York guys. It’s good to have that. Even though they’re not Canadian, they still have a lot of the same things going on culturally, so it’s good to have that.”
Enjoying the environment in Grand Rapids, Bauml appreciates the squad they have and the atmosphere they’ve created together.
“Honestly the thing I enjoy most about pro ball is just the team,” he said. “The guys in the locker room, they get along so well. It’s a lot of fun, just going to the ballpark and even just sitting in the locker room with those guys, we have a ton of fun. That’s probably my favourite part, just having fun with these guys…There’s a ton of team camaraderie and we get along really well.”