The professional baseball careers of Zach Muckenhirn and Tyler Wolfe are well underway, as each was dispatched to their respective minor league teams back in late June.
Muckenhirn, a left-handed pitcher who was selected out of the University of North Dakota by Baltimore in the 11th round of the June Amateur Draft, was assigned to the Aberdeen IronBirds. Wolfe, and infielder who was selected out of Kansas State by the Houston Astros in the 39th round, was originally assigned to the Rookie League Greeneville Astros in the Appellation League, and has since been reassigned to the Tri-City ValleyCats.
In a fortunate twist of fate for Delano baseball fans, the assignments and one reassignment put both Muckenhirn and Wolfe in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League, meaning the two will meet on the baseball field as opposing professional ball players.
That first meeting comes this week, when Aberdeen hosts Tri-City for a three-game series, Wednesday-through-Friday, Aug. 3-4, on Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD.
“Meeting as opponents will be different, but it will also be a lot of fun,” said Muckenhirn. “Even though we won’t be in the same dugout, being on that field together means we both have come a long way, and it’ll be awesome to get to see Wolfe play as a professional, because I know how hard he’s worked to get here.”
Both players hope to get a chance to face each other in one of the games.
“I’m very excited for it. I hope we do get the opportunity to face each other because, thinking back on it, I don’t know if we have ever faced each other,” said Wolfe. “To face each other for the first time as professionals will definitely put a little more on the line if we do get that opportunity.”
Muckenhirn looks forward to the novelty of facing Wolfe, and gave his former teammate some bulletin board material to ponder.
“I think it would be fun if I got to throw to him,” said Muckenhirn. “It would be something to talk about, and, when he makes it to the Bigs, I’ll want to remind him about the first time I struck him out.”
Fans can listen to the games online at TuneIn Radio, which can be found on MiLB.com.
Whether or not Muckenhirn and Wolfe actually meet in a one-on-one showdown remains to be seen, but, if they do, each has shown early in his career that he will be ready.
In five games through July 28, Muckenhirn was 3-1 with a 1.38 earned run average in 13 innings. In a combined 25 games with Greeneville (20) and Tri-City (5), Wolfe was batting .270 with 24 hits, including a double, 12 runs batted in, 10 runs and three stolen bases. Wolfe also pitched two scoreless innings at Greeneville.
If both remain with their current teams, Muckenhirn and Wolfe will have plenty of time to get to know each other as opponents. Later this month, Tri-City hosts Aberdeen for three games Aug. 17-18 at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, which sits on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY.
As for playing baseball for a career, Wolfe notes that a player has to love the game, something he, indeed, does.
“Pro ball has been fun so far, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “It’s a grind and you have to really enjoy baseball to get through it.”
The first two months have been full of adjustments for Wolfe.
“I’ve learned a lot so far and have gotten to play a few new positions ,which has been very exciting,” he said. “The only adjustment to make is really just the wood-bat part of it, because most of the kids in this league are the best of the best players who we both played against all of our college careers.”
The adjustments that have to be made come on the field and away from it, according to Muckenhirn.
“So far it’s been good. Parts of it are what I expected, and some parts are a little different,” Muckenhirn said of the transition to becoming a professional ball player. “The toughest thing with a long season like this is finding a way to maintain consistency. One outing to the next, I’m always trying to learn so that I don’t make the same mistakes at the end of the year that hurt me at the beginning. I’d say the hardest adjustment is coming in to a new system after a full season of work at school and having to put in the work seven days a week. But things like summer ball the last couple of years definitely helped me prepare to make that adjustment.”
Muckenhirn and Wolfe were the third and fourth Delano players, respectively, ever drafted in baseball. The first was pitcher Tom Traen, who was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 11th round of the 1983 draft, and the second was outfielder Jay Kvasnicka, who was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the eighth round of the 1988 draft.