2024 Local Players

by Steve Mims


Kaden Starr’s first appearance at Hamlin Field didn’t last long. “It was great, two strikeouts in one inning,” the former Marist star recalled. “It was my first experience against college hitters at any level, so that was exciting. I had a lot of nerves, but it turned out to be a good, quick inning.”

Starr’s lone appearance with the Springfield Drifters last summer was a 1-2-3 inning during an 8-2 win over Port Angeles on June 4th when he was signed to a 10-day contract to start the season while the Drifters waited for other players to arrive. He will get more work at Hamlin this season after signing to play all summer for the Drifters.

“Playing in front of friends and family means a lot,” said Starr, who spent the spring sitting out a redshirt season at University of Portland. “Being at UP, I am not with my family every day so it will be nice to have a whole summer in front of them.” That will be a common theme this year as the third edition of the Drifters features more than a dozen players from local schools when they open the season Friday at Yakima Valley. “This will be really fun,” said Nolan Miller, an outfielder who just finished his senior season at Sheldon High. “This is the first summer in a long time where I will be playing locally so I look forward to being in the area and getting to play in front of people that haven’t been able to see me play and share that with them.” Miller, who will join Starr at University of Portland next year, will get a head start facing college competition in the West Coast League after hitting nearly .500 for the Irish in the spring. “Hopefully I can translate that performance from the spring to summer against better pitching, so it will be a little bit more of a challenge,” he said. “It will be nice to dip my toes in the water of college-level pitching before I go to Portland in the fall. Get used to how other college guys go about their day-to-day and pick their brains on how to go about things and hopefully be ahead of the game.” Starr will look to get similar advice from pitchers on the Drifters. “I am always about learning from new guys, whether they are younger or older, they all have a different point of attack or strategy,” Starr said. “I can’t wait to attack every opportunity I have. I am excited to see how I got over the summer and take that back to UP.”

Starr will reunite with former high school teammate Cooper Mullens, an infielder returning from his freshman season at Michigan after batting .203 with 18 runs scored in 36 games last year with the Drifters. “Cooper has been a good friend since we started travel ball when we were nine, so I have played with him for about eight seasons,” Starr said. “I’m excited to do that again.” Starr is part of a pitching staff that also features former Junction City pitcher Billy Dotson. Aiden Gebhard arrives from Lane Community College while Ethan Paulson and Trevor Hammond pitch for Bushnell. Gabe Howard of West Linn and Carter Nelson of South Salem will pitch for the Drifters before joining the University of Oregon next year along with Chris Wrench, a Montana native who spent the spring at Yakima Valley College. Oregon signees Jace Hampson and Kayle Pisano will play in the infield for Springfield while outfielder Leo Reeves of South Eugene has also signed to play at Oregon.