Nate Baumann, a 2007 Marshall High School graduate, made a name for himself in Sioux Falls, S.D., over four stellar seasons as a member of the Augustana College baseball team. A two-time Daktronics NCAA Division II All-American and three-time first team All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honoree, Baumann holds eight records at Augustana. His career totals of 49 home runs, 49 doubles, 269 hits, .712 slugging percentage, 192 RBIs, 481 total bases and 205 runs scored are all school-bests at Augustana, as are his 40 stolen bases in a year.
After making his professional baseball debut in 2012 for the Schaumburg (Ill.) Boomers, of the independent Frontier League, Baumann will put his combination of power and speed on display closer to home in 2013 as a member of the Sioux Falls Canaries.
"That's what one of the biggest draws of playing for the Canaries was," Baumann said of returning to Sioux Falls. "Playing professional baseball is sort of a coup in itself, but playing close to home, Sioux Falls has become a second home to me; playing in front of friends, former teammates and coaches, being able to do that around here is the icing on the cake."
Baumann, who was signed by the Canaries (who play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball) on April 11, put up excellent numbers as a rookie with Schaumburg last summer, batting .283 with nine homers and 50 RBIs in 86 games. The Boomers had originally picked up their option on Baumann following the conclusion of the Frontier League season in September, but he said that baseball with the Boomers was not going to work out again this season.
As a result, Schaumburg released Baumann, who returned to Sioux Falls. Baumann noted that the potential to play for the Canaries crossed his mind following the severing of ties with the Boomers, though actual talks about joining the team only occurred recently.
"It was always kind of in the back of my mind, but I hadn't talked to (Canaries manager) Steve Shirley since I had been back...Being here in the Sioux Falls area and having been released, (the Canaries) always know who is around and who is available; so I kind of knew there was an outside shot," he said. "But for most of the offseason I hadn't had too much communication with them."
Baumann was one of five players signed by the Canaries last week, including a trio of players with affiliated minor league experience.
Along with inevitable challenges that come with playing in a new league, Baumann will also experience a change in organizational expectations when he joins Sioux Falls. The Boomers were comprised primarily of rookies during their inaugural campaign last season, whereas the Canaries have existed in one form or another since 1889 and are stocked with players with varying levels of professional experience.
"It's going to be different for sure," Baumann said. "In Schaumburg they had had the Flyers which were part of the American Association before, so they weren't necessarily new to the prospect of professional baseball in that city; but having a team full of newcomers, as opposed to just a few coming into spring training, it definitely has a different dynamic.
"I think it kind of pulled the guys on the Schaumburg team a little closer together just knowing that they were all a part of something brand new," he added. "Coming to the Canaries and having some guys that have been established, having a coaching staff that's established, I mean it's a team that has been in Sioux Falls for years. It's definitely going to be a different experience and I'm excited to try it."
The Canaries begin the 2013 season, year 21 of the current edition of professional baseball in Sioux Falls, on the road on May 16 against the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers. Baumann has a little more than a month to prepare.
"It's a little different because I only found out recently that I would be playing for a specific team, so my training becomes a little bit more baseball specific here in the next few weeks," Baumann said. "But I have prepared for many seasons in the past and it's all about getting focused, getting your timing down before you get to spring training and then getting the kinks out once you're there."