By Steve Mims
The Springfield Drifters will play 57 games in 65 days this summer with a schedule that mirrors the dog days of summer in the major leagues.
“That’s the goal, ultimately, to play pro baseball and have it be an everyday job,” said Ben Newton, an infielder from Fresno State who will spend his summer with the Drifters. “This is like getting a little taste of your dream. That is why summer ball is so fun, you get to play with wood bats and don’t have to worry about school. I am excited to go out and play.”
Newton had a similar experience last year playing in the Alaska Baseball League.
“That was a great experience, good baseball and good competition and you can’t complain about being in Alaska all summer,” Newton said. “You get to play high-level competition every day. Getting accustomed to playing against guys that you will face during the college season definitely helped me.”
Newton ranks third on the Bulldogs with a .250 average while starting all 14 games as a junior. He has six RBIs and scored six runs while hitting four doubles.
Newton will be joined by three FSU teammates on the Drifters, who will begin their second season in the West Coast League at Hamlin Field on June 2 against Port Angeles.
“I am definitely looking forward to going up there with a group of guys, it will be fun,” Newton said. “It sounds like a great opportunity. I have heard good things from people who played in that league before.
Newton’s parents, Christine and Parker, will have an easier time traveling from their home in Albany, Calif. to see their son play this summer. He also has family in the Portland area that will help fill up Hamlin Field.
The 5-foot-10 Newton was a four-year starter at Albany High School, earning all-league honors as a junior and senior. He was a catcher early in his career before moving to the infield.
“I played basketball through my freshman year, but I’m not the biggest guy so I knew that was not the future for me,” Newton said. “I figured that I would focus on baseball and see where it takes me.”
Newton is a second baseman who played 23 games, including nine starts, as a freshman. He boosted his average to .307 last year with 26 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
“Everyone here wants to be a big-leaguer so they are all working hard to get better each day,” he said. “It is about finding ways to help the team and bring value. My freshman year, I was more of a defensive player who came in late in games. Whatever role is needed, that is what I have to do.”