Ryan Dykstra is following a fantastic season on Grand Rapids Community College’s baseball team by taking his game to the next level, playing for the Kalamazoo Growlers of the Northwoods League.
The Northwoods League is a developmental league for elite college players, with players using wood bats instead of the metal bats used at the college level.
That hasn’t deterred the 6-foot, 210-pound outfielder from Byron Center. Through Sunday, Dykstra has played in 25 games, batting .292, and leading the team in hits and is second with 20 RBI.
He recently earned a promotion: a contract to play for the entire season.
“I’m glad to get it,” he said of the contract extension. “I didn’t know what to expect. But being here, I’m glad to be extended and to keep doing this thing.”
The 22-team league has existed for 27 seasons. More than 250 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including former Detroit Tigers Curtis Granderson and Max Scherzer and New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso.
Because Northwoods is an amateur league, players are not paid, allowing them to maintain their college eligibility. League teams play 72 games from late May until mid-August. Most live with host families during the season to keep expenses to a minimum.
The Growlers have players from across the country, and they attend colleges including Duke, University of Miami, Ohio State University, and the University of Tennessee. Dykstra has committed to playing at Oakland University next season and looks forward to entering teaching or business after graduating.
Fred Brown, GRCC assistant baseball coach, is the Growler’s hitting coach and recommended Dykstra for the team after a stellar GRCC season. Dykstra’s .422 batting average led the Raiders, and he also had the most runs, hits, doubles, home runs, and runs batted in.
That performance earned him four postseason honors from the Michigan Community College Athletic Association. He was named All-Region, All-MCCAA and First Team All-Conference. He also was named to the All-Tournament team at the regionals after batting .588 in five games.
Dykstra played baseball, football and basketball at South Christian High School, and GRCC head baseball coach Mike Eddington said Dykstra’s decision to focus on baseball helped improve his game.
“What I like about Ryan’s background is that he was a very good three-sport athlete, and he had a big upside once he focused on baseball,” Eddington said. “Ryan is passionate about being good, and he loves baseball. Playing for the Growlers this summer will prepare Ryan for Division 1 baseball.”
Dykstra was able to play before the hometown crowd last week, when the Growlers bested the Traverse City Pit Spitters 7-4 at LMCU Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. He had three hits in five at-bats, driving in a run.