If there were a Mankato MoonDogs Hall of Fame, left-handed pitcher Brett Newberg would be a sure-fire, first-ballot honoree.
The 22-year-old out of Moline, Illinois, has won more career games than any other player in MoonDogs history.
Part of that has to do with fact that he’s a rare four-year player Northwoods League player. But most of it is because he’s a darn good pitcher.
“He’s matured since he first got here four years ago, but he was already pretty mature in his first season,” said MoonDogs head coach Matt Wollenzin, who was an assistant coach during Newberg’s first three seasons. “Now you can see he’s really comfortable pitching in this league.”
Newberg spent his collegiate career at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Wollenzin is a former assistant coach at Austin Peay which led to Newberg signing with the MoonDogs as a freshman.
“I was excited to have that opportunity my first year,” Newberg said. “The Northwoods League is considered second only to the Cape Cod League in terms of summer competition.”
Having Wollenzin at the helm this summer is one of three key reasons Newberg came back for a fourth season.
Another is the close relationship he has developed with his host family, the Meyers. Parents Chris and Jodi Meyer, along with their three children Griffin, Hayden and Megan, have become a second family to Newberg who has watched the kids grow up the last four years.
The third reason is he simply didn’t want to miss out on the fun.
“I’ve had a great time playing for the MoonDogs,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates, played for some great coaches and have been able to play 72 games of baseball every summer.
“It doesn’t get much better than that. It may not seem like that on long bus trips to places like Thunder Bay, but when you look back, we’ve made some great memories.”
With 11 games left in the season, Newberg is currently 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA over 59 innings. He picked up his franchise record 19th career win last week in an 11-3 blowout of Rochester.
Wollenzin is not surprised at the success Newberg has had the last four years.
“He knows how to pitch, he knows how to set up batters,” Wollenzin said. “He’s very aggressive within the strike zone.”
Newberg agrees that he’s become more of a pitcher than just a thrower.
“My first year I was just looking in, getting the catcher’s sign and throwing that pitch. Now I’m more aware of the situation, who the batter is, what his tendencies are. The catcher and I are usually on the same page as to what is the best pitch to throw in each situation.”
After the season, Newberg is headed back to Moline where he will have foot surgery to repair a broken metatarsal in his left foot. He’s had the break since before the start of the college season but the doctors told him he could pitch through it if he could tolerate the pain.
“The pain hasn’t been that bad, at all,” he said. “Sometimes it’ll ache if I’m on my feet all day but it really doesn’t affect me when I pitch.”
After about nine months off, Newberg hopes to sign on with an independent league baseball team with the hopes of eventually landing in the major leagues.
“I’ll go to a tryout, I’ll do whatever. I’m just having too much fun playing baseball.”