Nate Baumann has played baseball, and played it well, for nearly 20 years.
But having spent the summer as an outfielder for the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers minor league baseball club, the Marshall native insists that there is always more to learn.
"The transition has been different than I expected," Baumann said. "There is a big difference between playing baseball and being a professional."
Photo courtesy of Schaumburg Boomers
In his first season with the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers, Marshall native Nate Baumann is batting .278 with 30 RBIs and 26 runs scored for the minor league ballclub.
Before Friday, Schaumburg were tied with the Windy City ThunderBolts for first place in the the Frontier League West Division. Baumann has racked up 30 RBIs over 48 games with six home runs, a triple, and eight doubles.
Prior to joining the Boomers, Baumann played baseball for Augustana College, where he was a two-time All-American, and with the Eau Claire Express of the Northwoods League. Despite hitting .398 over 183 at-bats at Augustana and .297 in over 327 at-bats for Eau Claire, Baumann is hitting .278 over 177 at-bats with the Boomers.
In an attempt to get back to his old batting standard, Baumann has been relying on his more experienced teammates and their plenitude of knowledge.
"Hanging around guys that have been around affiliated clubs and been in professional baseball for a while, they teach you stuff that you don't necessarily always learn on your own or learn in college, or learn around other college players." Baumann said.
"It kind of opens your eyes to exactly how difficult it is to be a professional and play a hundred games a season, every summer," Baumann added, "There's just a whole bunch of stuff that goes into it that you don't necessarily see when you're a college player."
Baumann offered some examples, which ranged from going over scouting reports to defensive positioning.
"The biggest thing you talk with experienced guys, or your teammates, about your swing is just little timing things," Baumann said. "Little things, if something is wrong, that you want to try or haven't seen before."
These interactions go beyond simply asking for advice, but evolve into mutually beneficial conversations.
"It's not necessarily 'Teach me how to do this or teach me where to stand.' You're almost talking through your swing, or your throwing, or your patterns in the outfield You're talking through them with the players and learning better ways to do it," Baumann said, "More than anything you're learning, you're trying to find what works for you. The biggest thing that the experienced guys have taught me is that you have to do what works for you at all times.
"It's a long season. You can't just assume that something is wrong every time something goes wrong."
Baumann is one of several rookies for the first-year Boomers, but was the first outfielder selected by the team.
The decision to join the Boomers did not come easy.
"It was sort of an odd time because I had almost decided that I was done trying," Baumann said. "I had just gotten a job with a behavioral health clinic as a case manager, which is a long-term job. That's not something you do for a little while.
"I was kind of getting settled in and getting ready to hang it up and probably play amateur ball in the summer," Baumann added, "but the first or second week I was there (Schaumburg manager Jaime Bennett) called me and asked if I wanted to go play."
The Boomers play in the Frontier League, comprised of teams from the Great Lakes region (excluding Minnesota and Wisconsin). Though not affiliated with Major or Minor League Baseball, the Frontier League is a form of professional baseball.
"What I always said to my parents and coaches was that I wasn't going to try out anymore," Baumann said. "I didn't want to go to anymore workouts. I felt I had done that enough in my life and if that is what it was going to take, I didn't want to do it anymore. I was going to move on."
Baumann missed out on being drafted by an affiliated club last summer, but was able to continue playing baseball when offered a contract by the Boomers.
"What (Bennett) offered me was a contract, and he offered me a spot in spring training, which I really appreciated," Baumann said. "I gave up that job I had to go give it a shot with the Boomers."
Perhaps influencing Baumann's decision to join the Boomers, but certainly making the transition easier for him, is the presence of long-time friend and teammate Drew Heitoff.
"Anytime you can have any sort of friend with you on any sort of new experience, it's going to help the transition go smoother. Considering he's the guy that's been there my whole baseball career, we're not just teammates," Baumann said. "It's almost like having your brother with you when you're trying something new. It would have been more difficult without him here. I'll play with him as long as I can."
Despite putting a career in the behavioral health field on hold, Baumann is grateful for the opportunity to keep his baseball career alive.
"It was disappointing not getting drafted last summer, it really was," Baumann said, "but the spot that I'm in now, playing independent ball, on a team like this with Drew alongside me, it's a brand new team, it's a nice city.
"I really couldn't have asked for a better place for my rookie season. I've been lucky enough to have some really experienced guys, some great leaders on this team and I can go to them whenever ... I couldn't have asked for a better team to be on for a rookie season."