This summer, Hope College center fielder Evan Maday took a mighty swing at an activity that’s normal for him amid times that are anything but. He got to play competitive baseball. And at a high level, too.
The senior for the Flying Dutchmen suited up for the Traverse City Pit Spitters of the Northwoods League in the COVID-19 summer of 2020. It’s a collegiate summer baseball league composed of teams with roster spots filled by some of the top college amateur players in the country.
Beginning in July, the Pit Spitters home field — Turtle Creek Stadium — served as a host for three Northwoods League teams as the league’s format was adjusted for the COVID-19 pandemic. Maday and the Pit Spitters didn’t travel to other Northwoods teams’ ballparks (like in Kalamazoo or Battle Creek, Wisconsin or Minnesota) but instead only played against the two other teams — Great Lakes Resorters and Northern Michigan Dune Bears — stationed in Traverse City.
Maday hit .315 over 21 games while starting in right field. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native (East Kentwood HS) finished with 23 hits, including eight multi-hit games. He also collected 13 runs batted in and scored 13 runs.
The Pit Spitters begin the Northwood League playoffs on Thursday, September 3, but Maday will be cheering them on from the Hope College campus. He left the team when classes began here last month. He is an engineering major with a concentration on civil engineering.
Maday chatted with Hope College sports information director Alan Babbitt this week about his experience.
Alan Babbitt: How did it come about for you to play with the Pit Spitters this summer?
Evan Maday: I played with them about half the season last year. I had already talked to Coach (Josh) Rebandt, who is the head coach up there, and signed my contract to play for the full season in the fall of last year. I knew even before we started practice for school last year that I was going to be playing this summer for the Pit Spitters.
AB: The Northwoods League is a pretty good level of summer baseball. Talk about what the baseball is like and how that’s helped your game.
EM: It’s a pretty elite league when it comes to summer leagues around the country. The Cape Cod and Northwoods Leagues are right up there with each other. We had a bunch of guys on our team bench from the Power 5, (NCAA) Division I guys. Just great, great baseball players all around me. It really helped my game that I was able to pick up some of the things that they do at their programs that I can implement into my game at Hope, then even bring back here to help our program a little bit. Although we didn’t get to travel around like we usually do, the competition was incredible. It’s a lot of fun playing at a high level with all those types of guys.
AB: How would you assess how you played, especially with a prominent role this year?
EM: I’m happy with how the season turned out. Even though I would have liked the (batting) average a little better, I really felt that I got better this summer and worked on a few parts of my game that I’d been hoping to work on during the spring season (which was canceled at Hope College). I couldn’t have asked for better experience, and I had a great time. I am content with the way I played.
AB: You probably got an early feel for what this semester at Hope was going to be like because you were following safety protocols with the Pit Spitters. So, what was that experience like? Where did you live in Traverse City, how were you staying safe while you were playing every day?
EM: Our team’s players stayed with host families. Those were set in place before everything happened (with COVID-19). I stayed with my aunt and uncle, Joe and Marie Ward; that was great. I worked as a Shipt shopper to earn some spending money. The Pit Spitters organization in general did a great job with regulating the whole COVID-19 situation. We got tested before our first game and played three games, then tests came back and there were eight positive tests on the other two teams up there. We canceled for two weeks then tested again, and we ended up playing again.
They did a great job keeping us socially distanced, keeping masks on at all times. With fans, there could only be 500 in the stadium (which can hold 4,660 fans). They did a great job with regulating all the things they had to in order so we could keep playing. It’s kind of a tough situation to navigate, but I think they really set a good standard on how to do it.
AB: I know it was just a gut-wrenching spring to have the season wiped out by the pandemic. What did it mean to you just to be able to play this summer?
EM: This spring season getting canceled really hurt. It hurt all of us, every spring sport athlete at Hope. It was a really tough time for a lot of people, including me. You just want to go out there and play. That I was going to have an opportunity to do that (with the Pit Spitters) was, for a while, was the only thing I could keep my mind on. I felt super blessed just having the opportunity to go and play. Baseball is what I love to do.
AB: How do you hope your summer with the Pit Spitters propels you into this coming season at Hope?
EM: I’m hoping that I can continue to work on those things that I started working on this summer. I want to get to the best spot I can be in to help Hope win this spring once we hopefully start playing again.