Honkers vs. St. Cloud Baseball

Pitcher Ryan Middendorf will represent the Rochester Honkers tonight at the Northwoods League All-Star Game in Waterloo, Iowa. He has been the ace of an outstanding pitching staff, but he has reached his innings limit and will not pitch again for Rochester this summer.

How good has Ryan Middendorf been for the Rochester Honkers?

The 6-foot-6 right-hander from Lake Erie College has made six starts, and the most runs he's yielded in a game is two. He's made two relief appearances, and in three innings he's given up two hits and no runs. He has 33 strikeouts with just five walks in 42 innings. 

All that work has translated into a record of 4-1, an ERA of 1.50 and a berth in tonight's Northwoods League All-Star Game in Waterloo.

Oh, and his one loss? Bismarck beat him June 30, by a score of 1-0.

That's the good news for Honkers fans. The bad news is that Middendorf has reached his innings-pitched limit for the summer, and after the game tonight in Waterloo he'll head back to his home just north of Cincinnati.

"I want to get a lot of rest and catch up on some sleep," he said before a game last Friday.

But he won't be resting on his laurels. After a short break, he said he'll be going right back to work.

"I'll be doing a lot of lifting this summer," he said. "I'm going to hit the weight room hard, try to put on some more muscle."

His goal, naturally, is to get noticed by some scouts and be playing professional baseball one year from now. While Lake Erie is a Division II school, Middendorf believes he has a good shot.

"I had a pretty good junior year, and I'm hoping to break out a bit more this year and get some interest," he said. "Even if you play for a smaller school, if you're good enough, you'll get some attention."

Middendorf is a classic four-pitch starter -- fastball, curve, slider and change-up. He touched 92 on the radar gun at Mayo Field a few times this summer, but he says his fastball is usually in the 87-89 mph range.

That's not overpowering, yet somehow he's been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league this summer.

"My command has been good here," he said. "I've had all four of my pitches going, and I've been able to work inside and outside with all four pitches."

Honkers manager Thomas Walker knows he is losing an important part of what has become the best pitching staff the Honkers have had in years. 

"It's been awesome to have a guy in the rotation that we could count on to go deep in games and give us a chance to win every time," Walker said. "And we did win most of his starts. He gave us a great ride for the first half and a little bit of the second half of the season."

Walker said that as good as Middendorf has been, he still has room to grow and improve -- which means he should get a shot at pro ball.

"I would definitely take a shot on Ryan Middendorf, because he is capable of getting outs at the next level," Walker said.

And Middendorf doesn't care whether he ultimately is a starter or reliever, as long as he gets a chance to fulfill his dream of playing professional baseball.

"I've come out of the bullpen in the past, so I'm used to it and have some experience," he said. "The routine is different than starting, but whatever way gets me in, any opportunity I can get, I'm down for it."

But first things first. Tonight he hopes to take the mound in the All-Star game, and given that he'll likely work only an inning or at most two innings, Middendorf said he won't hold anything back.

"This is the last competition I'm going to have for several months, so I'm going to try to blow it out a little bit," he said.

Given that none of the hitters on the Great Lakes squad will have seen him before, Middendorf should have an edge. It's also possible that he'll be pitching to a familiar target, as Honkers catcher Ryan Wrobleski is also an All-Star.

Walker, however, said he hopes Middendorf can simply relax and have a good time tonight.

"I want him to just have fun, to go down there and soak it all in," he said. "A lot of times we get caught up in the results, because this is such a results-oriented game, but this is a special honor for Ryan. I want him to enjoy the moment, rather than stressing about how well he does."

When it's over, Middendorf will say good-bye to the other Honkers All-Stars -- Evan Berkey, Tristan Peterson, Wrobleski and Keon Taylor -- and begin the next chapter of his life and his baseball career.

"It's going to be bittersweet," he said. "My host family has been great, the whole experience has been great all the way through. The guys have been fantastic, and I've made some great friendships here this summer."

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Outdoors & Sports Reporter

Eric is the Post Bulletin outdoors editor and also is a sports reporter and columnist. He has a master's degree in American literature from the University of Kentucky and began working at the Post Bulletin in 2000. He’s an avid hunter and angler.