Former Cavalier travels tough road back to pro ball

Published 5:41 pm Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At least one more summer of playing pro baseball meant a lot of time on the road and a lot of uncertainty, and that was before the season began, and even before Lakeland alum Robert Hedrick knew if he had a team to play for.

Hedrick played in 2009 for the Washington (Pa.) Wild Things in the Frontier League, an independent league in which teams aren’t affiliated with any Major League franchises.

Hedrick was an infielder during his collegiate career at California University (Pa.), but was turned into a pitcher with Washington because of a fastball reaching the low 90s. Last season, Hedrick finished with a 3.52 ERA and opponents hitting .231 against him.

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Washington hired a new coach during the offseason and in late April, while Hedrick was coaching Lakeland’s junior varsity squad, he got a call telling him he’d been released.

A few days later, on May 3-4, Hedrick traveled to Avon, Ohio for Frontier League tryouts. Out of the tryout, the 12 Frontier League teams can draft players, but that only guarantees a player another tryout with the club.

The Southern Illinois Miners drafted Hedrick. A couple weeks later, Hedrick made the 14-hour drive to Miner tryouts. After the tryouts and a few exhibition games, Hedrick became the first player in the four-year history of the Miner franchise to make the squad starting from the league-wide tryouts.

In nine games as a reliever, Hedrick has a 3.86 ERA with seven strikeouts and five walks. On Sunday against the Windy City ThunderBolts, Hedrick pitched a career-high 5.0 innings, allowing one run and two hits during a 6-5 Southern Illinois win. The Miners are 19-4 on the season.

Matt Davenport (Nansemond-Suffolk) has made three starts on the mound for the Peninsula Pilots. Davenport is 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings. He’s given up nine hits while striking out 14 and hitting four batters.

Davenport got his win going 6.2 innings and allowing two hits and a run in a 2-1 Pilot win over the Edenton Steamers.

The Pilots (9-8) play in the Coastal Plain League, a wooden bat league for returning college players. Davenport, a 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher, a rising junior at William and Mary.

The Pilots play at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton. Upcoming home dates, with all games starting at 7:05 p.m., are this Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and next Friday.

Nansemond River (’03) and William and Mary (’07) alum Greg Sexton is playing with the Charlotte (Fla.) Stone Crabs, Tampa Bay’s advanced single-A farm team.

Sexton, a third baseman, is hitting .305 in 20 games for the Stone Crabs. Sexton started this spring with Tampa Bay’s double-A team in Montgomery, Ala.

In the last 10 games, Sexton’s recorded 13 hits, four RBI and three doubles.