Huskies keep loose with summer league baseball

By Matt Hopkinson

In the midst of oppressive heat, twelve NIU baseball players are braving the elements across the nation in summer league baseball.

Huskies are represented from the local level in Illinois to other locations such as North Carolina, Texas and California.

NIU baseball head coach Ed Mathey said it’s important for his players to work out with these leagues during the summer because NCAA rules do not allow colleges to run their own summer programs.

One member of the NIU squad, playing locally with the DuPage Wildcats, is sophomore catcher Joe Battaglia.

Battaglia is not only playing summer league baseball three to four times a week, he is also training and working 40 hours a week.

“I’m able to do what I need to help myself financially,” Battaglia said. “It’s good to be able to see my friends and family, which is hard to do during the regular school season. It’s nice to work on things in a convenient manner.”

Mathey has no control over whether players decide to participate in summer leagues, but does do all he can to help those who are interested.

“We make phone calls on kid’s behalf,” Mathey said. “We want them playing in the highest level of competition they can. Some have existing contacts, some like to stay here, some like to get away.”

Battaglia had goals in his mind coming into the summer, and has already made progress on some of them.

“I made a goal to myself to add some size,” Battaglia said. “At the end of the year, I had dropped seven pounds. Being a catcher, you sweat a lot. I’ve recently gained seven more pounds, weighing in at 200. I have been working on my speed a lot, trying to increase that. Hopefully I can add that to my arsenal.”

While Battaglia is the only Huskie on the DuPage roster, he has benefitted from being around new people and coaches. Battaglia also knows, however, that his college teammates are always just one phone call away.

“I’m in contact with Chris Divarco quite a bit,” Battaglia said. “We had a conversation the other day. He had a rough night at the plate, he called me, talked about things, and the next night he hit two home runs. When I’m struggling, I can call him. It’s good to be able to talk to people that know you’re game.”