BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- The Bombers have 11 Division 1 college baseball players on their 28-man roster, but it is a pair of Division 3 players that have led the team at the plate in the first 21 games.
Connor Bailey from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and Zach Gartner from East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, are leading the team in hits, batting average, and runs batted in.
“It is just the competition," Gartner said. "Being from a little D-3 school, you don’t see all the great arms that you do at the big D-1’s and stuff. It has really been nice coming out here and seeing just great pitching.”
Bailey was the MVP of the New York Collegiate League last summer.
“I’ve heard great things coming out here," Bailey said. "I played summer ball last year in New York, so I am used to being away from home, and I just wanted to come out and play in the best league that I possibly could. And from everything that I heard, this was that league, and it has lived up to the expectations so far.”
Neither Gartner nor Bailey knew any of their current Bombers teammates prior to arriving in Battle Creek last month.
"It is not easy going into an environment where you meet a new family, meet a brand new set of guys that you are not connected to at all before you come here," Bombers manager Josh Rebandt said. "So, I think you grow up as an individual and as a man."
Not everybody has traveled a long way to play for the Bombers,. Outfielder Nete Jones is a Battle Creek Lakeview High School graduate who plays at Eastern Michigan University.
“Just being here playing home this summer is kind of relaxing," Jones said. "It is relieving being able just to stay home. Aand growing up watching the Bombers, it’s always been something I wanted to do. So, just being able to do this is an unreal experience.”
Battle Creek has won seven of its last 10 games and will be in Rockford, Illinois, to play the Rivets the next two nights.