The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 22, 2013

Feenstra takes advantage of his OPPORTUNITY

MoonDogs pitcher turns temporary stint into full-time position

By Chad Courrier ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — Donovan Feenstra could be back home in Calgary, playing for a local summer-league baseball team. Or he could be helping to plan for his August wedding.

But he had a chance to play for the Mankato MoonDogs in the Northwoods League, and as he usually does, he made the most of his opportunity, going from 10-day temporary fill-in to permanent member of the MoonDogs pitching staff.

"I'm just trying to be myself and do what I usually do," Feenstra said. "I'm just trying to pound the (strike) zone and let it happen."

Feenstra, a lefty from the University of Cumberlands, found out this week that the MoonDogs wanted him to stay around for the rest of the season. The team started with six pitchers, and four position players, on 10-day contracts, and Feenstra is the only pitcher that has been added permanently.

"I was pretty happy," he said. "I wanted to be here full-time. I'm glad I get that opportunity."

In 18 innings through Thursday's games, Feenstra has allowed 18 hits and six walks, striking out 21. He's 1-1 with a 0.50 earned-run average, using a deceptive, slow delivery that seems to hide the late movement on his pitches.

"He just needs to have the confidence that he belongs here," said MoonDogs manager Mike Orchard, who developed a relationship with the Cumberlands coach last fall that brought Feenstra and pitcher Kahana Neal to the MoonDogs. "A big part of life is getting an opportunity and then making the most of it. He's been doing well."

Feenstra has appeared in five games, starting one. Orchard likes to have some versatile arms on his pitching staff, especially ones that seem to be available every day.

"Those kind of arms are worth their weight in gold," Orchard said.

At Cumberlands, Feenstra was also a spot starter and reliever, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.97 ERA last spring and allowing 25 hits and nine walks in 30 innings. Opponents batted .227 with only six extra-base hits.

He doesn't overpower hitters with fastballs, but the movement helps. He also likes to throw a change-up that has good movement and deception.

"I just need to hit my spots, and hopefully, the ball doesn't catch the barrel of the bat," Feenstra said.

He could have chosen to return to Calgary to play in a league their, but he wanted to test himself against top-line college talent. He's found the league to be as good as he thought it would be.

"This is a better league with better hitters," he said.

Feenstra said he needs to do his conditioning and arm-strengthening work between outings, making sure that left arm is ready when needed. He'd like to add a few more miles per hour to his pitches so that the scouts are more impressed when they read their radar guns.

His fiancee will be in town next week, and their wedding comes before the MoonDogs season ends. He's happy he chose the Northwoods League, and he's met the challenge of staying for the rest of the summer.

"This is the best level of ball I've played at in my life," he said.