CLARINDA, Iowa — The MINK League and its clubs spread across Missouri and up into Iowa serve a variety of purposes for area baseball players.
For many, it is a way to stay sharp for their college programs and get some extra at-bats and innings in before returning to their college programs. For former Northwest Missouri State standouts Derek Hussey and Logan Rycraft, the MINK League and the St. Joseph Mustangs offer a chance to keep the dream alive by getting noticed by an independent team and beginning to climb the ladder of professional baseball.
Hussey and Rycraft wrapped up their Bearcat careers in May after strong senior seasons. Hussey, a Chillicothe product, started all 50 games and batted .323 for Northwest. Rycraft, a Mount Vernon native, started 49 games at shortstop and hit .263.
After the season, the pair of Bearcats began their search for a new to team and were happy when the Mustangs and coach Johnny Coy extended them the opportunity to head down Highway 71 and join up with the traditionally most successful team in the MINK.
“When Johnny texted me said that, ‘I have a spot for you,’ that was awesome,” Hussey said. “I’m trying to keep playing, that is the goal.”
Hussey, who played with St. Joseph two seasons ago and spent the most recent season with the rival Chillicothe Mudcats, says that the opportunity to play for St. Joseph in Phil Welch Stadium is unlike anything else in the MINK.
“Baseball is baseball,” Hussey said. “Just getting to play it, it doesn’t matter what team I play for. Obviously though, the Mustangs are fun to play for and they draw the big crowds. Obviously that influenced my decision.”
The match has work well for both the team and players. St. Joseph has clinched the overall best regular-season record in the MINK League at 25-7 (31-9 overall) with five games to play.
Hussey has been a huge factor in that success. The centerfielder was selected to the MINK All-Star Game and so far this season, is batting .271 with a .351 on-base percentage in league play.
“I am having fun, I know that,” Hussey said.
A first-inning two-run triple for Hussey on Thursday night in Clarinda helped set the tone in the Mustangs 15-9 victory over the A’s.
Rycraft has faced more of a battle for playing time with the team. University of Kansas shortstop Jack Wagner, Arkansas State shortstop Karsen Reid, South Dakota State second baseman Drew Beazley and Drury second baseman Jackson Dierenfeldt make for a crowded middle infield rotation, but Rycraft has been happy with how he has performed in the chances he has received.
“For me it is all about having some fun and playing with some flair, which I think I bring to the table,” Rycraft said. “Every day, in practice, you work your tail off; in B.P., you work your butt off and when game time hits, it is all about fun.”
Rycraft has appeared in just 17 games, but has been able to show off his glove in the field and his bat has heated up in recent games. Rycraft is batting .261 this season, but is riding a six-game hitting streak with multiple hits in four of those games.
“The goal is to keep playing baseball and continue the dream,” Rycraft said. “I’m looking to finish out the season on a strong note and then hopefully try to sign with an indy-ball team.”
The Mustangs have five games remaining in the regular season before the MINK League Playoffs.