Dauphin native Will Hlady has taken his baseball career to the next level.
After finishing his college career with the Valley City State University Vikings, Hlady signed with the Tucson Saguaros of the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs, an independent league with teams in California, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas.
Hlady was heading to a Vikings practice when he received a phone call inviting him to a tryout in California, which resulted in his signing with the Saguaros. Hlady made his professional debut, June 4, earning the win in a 15-4 victory over the California-based Martinez Sturgeon. Hlady pitched five innings, allowing four hits, four runs of which only one was earned, while walking four and striking out seven. Hlady helped his own cause going two-for-two at the plate, with a walk and four runs-batted-in.
It was the first time in five years Hlady stepped to the plate, which, he said, made things interesting.
“Guys throw a little bit harder than what I’m used to seeing from playing back in high school. So it was a little bit of an adjustment, but it worked out well for me in my favour,” he said.
There is a period of adjustment, Hlady said, because the ball moves quicker and players are bigger and stronger and have more experience.
“Obviously, the guys that are here are here for a reason. They can all play at the next level. So it’s a little more competitive, I feel, and there’s a lot more consistency from players,” he said. “The guys that are coming up hit more frequently. Guys are making plays more frequently. There’s a lot more professionalism to it, as well, with showing up on time, being there before games and taking care of yourself.”
The biggest adjustment for Hlady is learning to hit his spots when he is pitching.
“Because guys will be able to hit the ball over the fence quite easily here. And I’ve seen that from our team firsthand and from other teams we’ve played against so far,” he said.
Hlady feels he has matured on the mound throughout his college career and he is able to control his offspeed pitches and fastball better.
“And just sticking with it and not being too frustrated when things don’t go my way,” he added.
Tucson is the two-time defending champions in the Pecos League and the goal, obviously, is to win a third straight championship.
“Which seems very doable with the way we’re playing right now,” Hlady said of the 8-2 Saguaros.
As for his own goals, Hlady hopes to improve enough to take his skills to the next professional level.
Pecos teams play in cities that do not have major or minor league baseball teams and they are not affiliated with either. The Pecos League has a 22-man roster with no designated hitter used in games. Each team roster has eight experienced players and 13 rookies.
The Pecos League regular season runs through the middle of the summer from June 1 to Aug. 5.