FARGO — Alex DuBord and Austin Ver Steeg have similarities with Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste. Both are area baseball players who are trying to advance their professional careers with the RedHawks.
DuBord graduated from Fargo South High School, like Coste, and has a couple seasons of pro experience. Ver Steeg played college baseball at Concordia, like Coste, and he’s trying to make his first professional roster this summer.
“I’m rooting for both of them, but they also need to be really good, the same way Doug Simunic told me way back in the day when I had very little chance to make the team,” Coste said, referring to former longtime F-M manager Doug Simunic. “The bottom line is you have to be good enough. This league has gotten to a level where there’s no free passes, whether you are a local guy or not.”
Both pitchers, DuBord and Ver Steeg are hoping to earn bullpen spots for the RedHawks, who start the American Association regular May 18 at the Cleburne (Texas) Railroaders. F-M hosted the California Dogecoin on Tuesday, May 11, in a home exhibition game at Newman Outdoor Field.
“It’s always a good opportunity to have another chance and it’s even better to have one back home so I feel good about it,” said DuBord, a 2015 South graduate. “To come back here and play is a good opportunity, it’s good baseball. It’s time to get back into it.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound DuBord played in the San Francisco Giants organization in 2018 and 2019, advancing as high as Class Single-A. The Giants drafted DuBord in the 10th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft. In 2020, the minor leagues were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It sucked,” DuBord said of not being able to play last summer.
Coste likes DuBord’s frame and thinks the hard-throwing right-hander has room to grow. DuBord has a fastball that clocks in the mid-90s.
“Him being a local guy, it makes sense, he’s right in our backyard, he’s got abilities, he’s got some professional experience already,” Coste said. “It’s our job to help him improve and get better because at our level, if you want to get signed by an organization and help us win, we do have to find ways to adapt, evolve and get better. … He still has a lot of room to get better.”
In his two minor league seasons, DuBord posted a 2-4 record with an 8.82 ERA in 49 innings. He averaged 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
“It’s a situation where he’s fighting to make the team and could be a pretty valuable role for us out of the bullpen,” Coste said.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Ver Steeg, pitched for the Cobbers during the spring of 2020, but that season was cut short due to COVID-19. The right-hander, from Glenwood, Minn., said it’s an “incredible opportunity” to have a chance to earn a roster spot with the RedHawks.
“I’m trying to go out there and prove that I belong,” Ver Steeg said. “I know it’s a step above the level of play I’ve played before, but I truly feel I can compete at this level and I just want to prove that.”
During that 2020 season at Concordia, Ver Steeg had a 2-0 record with a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings with 18 strikeouts and six walks.
“It’s going to be a challenge for him because he really never has pitched at a level this high, but he is a very determined guy and has confidence, not over confidence,” Coste said. “He just wants an opportunity and we were happy to provide it to him.”
Coste played for the RedHawks from 1996-1999 and that helped launch his professional career that ended up in the Major Leagues and included a World Series championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
“It’s cool to hear his stories and in a way you gain experience yourself through him,” Ver Steeg said of Coste.