Recent Loyola graduate Derek Yoo ‘20 competed in the Northwoods Baseball League, a collegiate summer baseball league for the top college baseball players, this past summer.
Yoo said, “It was a really great experience. It was very fun to be able to play after my senior season getting cut short, and I had a great time.”
Yoo, a standout starter for Loyola during his four years, was introduced to the league by a teammate who recommended him for one of the teams.
The league, based in the midwest, brings in collegiate athletes from all years—from freshman to seniors and even recent college graduates—and fielded 22 teams this year.
Yoo played for the Great Lakes Resorters, a new team added this year for the league to help fill its schedule given COVID-19.
Yoo said, “Our team was made specifically for this year. The team was made just so we could play one of the other teams every day, and so the fans could enjoy some baseball. Lots of people came out to watch the games, so it was interesting to play in front of a 500-person crowd.”
Due to COVID-19, teams were not allowed to travel to play games, so Yoo’s team played the same team, the Traverse City Pit-Spitters, for the entire season, which ran from Jul. 1 until mid-August.
Yoo commented, “The other team was very talented. They had their team planned last year and they had established Division 1 guys from power five conferences such as the SEC and Big 10; while our team had mostly Division 2 and Division 3 guys.”
Yoo made five appearances over his 20 games in the league, making three starts and two relief appearances. In those two relief appearances, Yoo pitched well, giving up zero runs and striking out four with no walks across five innings of work.
Commenting on his performance, Yoo noted, “I pitched much better in my relief appearances than in my starts in both my command and in the results.”
An incoming freshman at Columbia University, Yoo had the opportunity to play against some tough competition and the best players from the top baseball programs in the nation before starting collegiate play.
Yoo said, “It was good to face real college hitters. Most of those guys were at the top of their team at their college. Every at-bat was tough, and every hitter was tough. It was a really great experience and opportunity learning how to pitch to college hitters.”
The Loyola-graduate added, “The experience was good. We played every day, so it was kind of like a pro experience. Schedule-wise it was a little difficult because we had to be at the field from 3:00-10:30 P.M. every night. It was a grind, but it was a really fun and great experience.”
The league gave him an opportunity to see the type of talent that he will be facing in college and to transition from facing high-school-caliber players to collegiate athletes.
Yoo commented, “It’s a very different experience than pitching to high schoolers. For high school, you can just throw around the zone and guys will get themselves out; however, in the league, the zones were a lot tighter, hitters were fouling everything off, and they hit everything harder. I had to limit the mistakes.”
Looking ahead, Yoo is ready to get back out onto the field with Columbia once the university makes its decision on spring sports. In his freshman season, Yoo hopes to make an impact on Columbia’s team as a reliever and then eventually transition into a late series starter.
Yoo said, “I would imagine that I would begin as a reliever. It all depends on how I do during team workouts. Columbia usually starts out the season with games and tournaments on the west coast. Those games usually determine who starts during the season.”
Until then, Yoo and the other Columbia baseball players, like most college athletes right now, are just waiting for the announcement about the season from the university.
Yoo said, “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. A lot of guys are just waiting to get out there, and a lot of guys didn’t come to campus. Until actual announcements come out, no one’s going to jump to any conclusions. Guys are still training, and we are going to get ready like any other season.”