Messalonskee graduate Sam Dexter, now with the Fargo-Morehead RedHawks, makes a play around second base. Photo provided by Sam Dexter

Messalonskee High School graduates and brothers Sam and Jake Dexter are enjoying solid seasons playing in independent leagues. Sam, 27, is playing shortstop for the Fargo-Morehead Redhawks of the American Association. Jake, 24, is pitching for the Tri-City Valley Cats, a team based in Troy, New York and in the Frontier League.

In 68 games with the Redhawks, Sam is hitting .265 with three home runs, 35 RBIs, and 36 runs scored. This past winter, Major League Baseball streamlined its minor league affiliate system, cutting the number of teams. That meant more players with affiliate experience playing in the independent leagues, and that has raised the level of play, Sam Dexter said.

“It’s getting rare now in our league to get a guy who hasn’t played affiliate baseball,” said Dexter, who was drafted out of the University of Southern Maine in the 23rd round by the Chicago White Sox in 2016 and reached the High-A level with the club. “We just played Kansas City, and they had four or five guys with major league experience.”

Jake Dexter has pitched in 18 games for the Valley Cats this season, with a 1-2 record and 5.36 ERA.

“(The) season’s going good with Tri-City. It’s been up and down but we’re starting to play like we can,” said Jake Dexter, who spent the 2019 team pitching for the Los Angeles Angels Rookie League team in Arizona after completing his college career at USM.

At 29-30, the Valley Cats are in first place in the Frontier League’s Atlantic Division, 1.5 games ahead of the New York Boulders. Sam Dexter and Fargo-Morehead are 41-31, six games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Milkmen and in third place in the American Association’s North Division.

“I got off to a great start and now I’m riding the wave of a 100-game season. I think we’re the best offense in the league. We’re trying to win playoff games and win the championship,” Sam Dexter said.

Messalonskee graduate Jake Dexter pitches for the Tri-City Valley Cats. Photo provided by Sam Dexter

 

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After a 2020 season in which he pitched in no games, Valley High School graduate Cody Laweryson is back on the mound this season for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Minnesota Twins High-A minor league team.

“My fastball’s been my best pitch. I’m working on a harder slider, and that’s coming along. I’m developing a changeup, too, and working on getting every pitch in the (strike) zone and getting outs,” said Laweryson, who was drafted by the Twins in the 14th round in 2019 out of the University of Maine.

Former Elizabethton Twins pitcher Cody Laweryson delivers a pitch during a 2019 game. Laweryson now plays for Cedar Rapids, the Twins High-A team. Contributed photo/Elizabethton Twins

Affiliated minor league baseball canceled the 2020 season as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A minor bicep injury suffered in late January delayed the start of Laweryson’s 2021 season. He made his first start for the Kernels on June 8. So far this season, Laweryson has made eight starts, with an 0-3 record and 4.97 earned run average. In 25 1/3 innings, Laweryson has 35 strikeouts.

Wins and losses aren’t as important as developing his pitches, Laweryson said. The Twins are keeping him on a pitch count, limiting Laweryson to no more than 80 pitches each outing. There have been games he’s been pulled with fewer pitches after five innings, simply to save wear and tear on his right arm, Laweryson said.

Laweryson points to a start on July 25 as his best start of the season thus far. Laweryson went five innings that day, allowing one run on three hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.

“I felt like my stuff was good that day,” he said.

With a month and a half left in the season, Laweryson hopes to continue his improvement.

“I’d like to see a little more consistency. It’s been kind of up and down,” Laweryson said.

 

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When Tom Dexter got the call from the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, at first he thought they must be trying to reach his son Sam, a former National Player of the Year at USM. No, Dexter was assured. This call to the Hall was for him.

“I got emotional for a second, just thinking back to all the years,” Dexter said.

Dexter was the head baseball coach at Colby College for 15 seasons, and helped develop talented youth baseball teams in the Oakland area, coaching Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth teams to state championships and deep runs in the New England tournament. Dexter joins a talented Maine Baseball Hall of Fame class that includes four former major league players: Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Furbush, Ryan Reid and Mark Rogers. The induction is set for Nov. 7 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

“He put in a lot of time and effort coaching baseball,” Sam Dexter said of his father. “He’s pretty well-deserving of this honor.”

Added Jake Dexter: “My dad coached a lot of guys and they’re all like family. I think that’s why he’s been coaching that long. Sports are good but the relationships are what keep it going.”

Tom Dexter, who is an assistant football coach at Colby, said he gained the same pleasure from coaching college players and youth ballplayers picking up their first bat and glove.

“It was a nice mix. I found myself doing the same stuff with college guys as with 9-year old all-stars,” Dexter said. “Winning states, the last couple of games were always tight, and getting to regional competition was always special.”

 

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