The Alexandria Blue Anchors unveiled their home and away jerseys at Fat Daddy’s on Wednesday night and also let the fans know there would be a familiar face in those jerseys this summer.
Alexandria’s Dalton Leuschke has signed a full contract to play for the local Northwoods League team all summer after getting a taste of the NWL with the Beetles in 2012 on a short contract. He was at the jersey unveiling on Wednesday as his future Blue Anchors teammates, Ryan Mestnik and Tyler Beck of Augsburg College, modeled the new attire before answering a few questions from general manager Joe Dempsey. Leuschke just wrapped up his second season at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) where he hit .298 with 20 runs scored and 16 RBIs.
The Bears were ranked No. 1 in the Division II National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) polls at one point this season and finished with a record of 44-11. Their season came up short of where they wanted to get after losing 9-2 to Iowa Central Community College in a NJCAA Region XI elimination game recently.
“We ended on a sour note,” Leuschke told me when I caught up with him after the jersey unveiling. “Things just didn’t go our way. We had a good team, it just didn’t end the way we wanted it to. For me personally, I didn’t hit as good as I wanted to. I still ended up hitting all right, but defensively I felt comfortable.”
The former Alexandria Cardinals shortstop played a lot of right field and also caught a few games for the Bears. He hit .304 with 30 RBI and 32 runs scored his freshman season at DMACC in 2012. That earned him a shot with the Beetles in the NWL early last summer where he hit .182 in just 22 at-bats. The short contract left him with about two months where he played some with the Miltona Tigers in the Resorters Amateur Baseball League. It wasn’t the day-to-day action that he was hoping for to keep his game sharp before heading back to DMACC.
“I kind of had two months off before I started playing again and that kind of hurt me,” he said. “But I think being on a full contract will be awesome this year. It will help me get ready for next fall and keep everything intact, my swing and then just staying healthy for next fall and hopefully keep things going.”
Leuschke is excited for the opportunity to work with Blue Anchors manager Al Newman again. Newman was Leuschke’s coach on a traveling all-star team through the Minnesota Baseball Academy, owned by new Blue Anchors’ co-owner Adam Barta.
Leuschke will have the comfort of knowing he has the opportunity to prove that he can play at the NWL level over the course of an entire summer. The new ownership group has made it clear that they want to have a lot of Minnesota players on this team in the coming years, and having a local product fits exactly what they are looking for. That’s exciting for Leuschke, who says he’s eager to try to prove that you can build a winning team in the NWL with Minnesota players.
“Obviously, being from Minnesota, people don’t really see you as a baseball player because it’s not a really warm state,” he said. “But I feel like there are a certain amount of kids who work hard to show people that they can do it, and I think they use it to their advantage. They like to prove people wrong. For me, being from Alexandria and playing in front of everyone, it’s a chance for me to show them that I can play at this level and prove to them that Minnesota kids do work hard and like to play and can play at the highest levels just like the kids from down south that get to play all year around.”
Leuschke hopes a good summer will lead to some big opportunities in the fall. He said he has some Division II offers for baseball and is also getting strong interest from a few Division I teams. One of those is the University of North Dakota, where he says he hopes to play next fall.
“I’m pretty sure it’s everyone’s goal as an athlete to get to the highest level,” he said. “Division I has always been a dream of mine to play. All the perks that come with it – the flying, the traveling, getting to compete at the highest level you can compete at.”