Lilledahl having some summer fun
2020 Triton grad Derek Lilledahl has played baseball for four teams this summer and has been getting tips from a pair of former pro pitchers.
Derek Lilledahl might have had his senior season of high school baseball dashed, but he is making up for it this summer.
The 2020 Triton High School grad — like all other high school athletes in the state — was unable to play sports this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baseball is a passion for the right-handed pitcher, however, and he has been able to play on four different teams this summer as he prepares for college. He has also been receiving some top-notch training and advice from a pair of former minor-league pitchers.
“Each day I usually have two sessions of baseball,” Lilledahl said.
Lilledahl's first baseball session involves working out at Rochester Batting Cages for a couple of hours each weekday morning. While there, he is being tutored by Mitch Brown, a Century grad and former minor-league pitcher.
“We’re strengthening my body and he’s just really critiquing my mechanics," Lilledahl said. "I went in there and he said my mechanics were good enough for me to throw hard because I was athletic, but he said my mechanics were not good at all. So we’ve been tweaking them."
"Derek works really hard and he has quite a bit of talent," Brown said. "He asks a lot of the right questions and wants to know what he has to do to continue getting better."
The 6-foot-2, 178-pound Lilledahl throws a two- and four-seam fastball as well as a curve, slider and changeup. His fastball has been timed at 86 miles per hour.
“We’ve seen some improvement, but we’ve got a ways to go,” Lilledahl said.
"I'm really helping him try to understand what he's trying to do and giving him some tools and equipping him to coach himself a little bit," Brown said. "That's one thing a lot of younger players struggle with."
After his morning workout, Lilledahl usually does a lighter afternoon workout, or he is off to play a game.
He has played with the Triton 18U team and has played in three tournaments with the Rochester Pines traveling team. He also played for the Hiawatha Valley League team in the Senior Class Salute Baseball Tournament in St. Paul.
“It was sort of satisfying it since we didn’t get a season," Lilledahl said. "I haven’t seen a lot of those opponents, the guys we played against.”
The Hiawatha Valley League team played two of its games at CHS Field, the home of the St. Paul Saints. Lilledahl got to pitch in one of the team's three games.
“You get to feel like what a Big Leaguer feels," Lilledahl said of playing at CHS Field. "And you’re playing with guys you’ve been playing against your whole life and it’s sort of nice to be on same side. The grass is perfect, the mound is great, there's even a bathroom in the dugout."
Lilledahl has also gotten a chance to play with the Rochester Royals Class B amateur team. He has done some pitching and also played in the field. With the Royals, he has also connected with Matt Meyer, a Rochester native and former minor-league pitcher.
“I stay in contact with him on the phone, he texts me every time I pitch and he asks me how it goes and how my arm feels," Lilledahl said. "He gives his opinion on how I pitch. It’s nice to have minor-league pitchers talking to you and sort of helping you through the process.”
"Obviously playing for the Royals, it's been fun because I've been able to watch him pitch," Brown said. "We've been able to kind of discuss the adjustments we've been going over week by week. It's been a great experience for him, I think he's really enjoying playing for the Royals."
Lilledahl hopes gathering tips from former pro players and playing with the Royals helps him at the next level. He will follow in his father's footsteps and play baseball at Minnesota State University, Mankato this fall. Tom Lilledahl played shortstop for the 1986 Mankato State team that won the Division II national championship.
“It’s nice that I’ll have my feet all wet for this fall for Mankato," Lilledahl said. "I don’t think as many kids have been playing as much ball as I have this summer. I feel like I’m getting a step farther in my abilities and it sort of brings my confidence up.”