FARGO — Sam Dexter made a memorable impression on Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste the first time Coste saw him play.
Dexter was the shortstop for the Milwaukee Milkmen during the 2019 American Association baseball season. Yhoxian Medina, who Coste described as a Major League caliber defensive player, was the RedHawks slick-fielding shortstop that summer.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen another shortstop kind of outplay Medina, and it wasn’t that Medina played poorly,” Coste said. “Sam Dexter was absolutely incredible at shortstop. … It shocked me.”
Dexter played 22 games for the RedHawks last season after F-M acquired him from the New York Boulders of the Frontier League.
“He was basically a Gold Glove type shortstop with very little to no bat,” Coste said. “When we had a chance to get him last year, we jumped at it, thinking all glove, no bat.”
Dexter has provided more offensive punch than Coste expected. He batted .309 for the RedHawks last summer and was hitting .389 through nine games this season.
“Defense is always going to be my No. 1 focus,” said the 27-year-old Dexter, who played college baseball at the University of Southern Maine, a Division III program in Gorham. “The hitting, I try not to think about it too much because it can be so complex. … I think this was the perfect spot for me.”
The RedHawks (5-4) are set to start a three-game series against the Houston Apollos at 7:02 p.m. Friday, May 28, at Newman Outdoor Field.
The Chicago White Sox drafted Dexter in the 23rd round of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound infielder spent two years in the White Sox organization. This is Dexter’s fourth season in independent baseball. Last summer was the first time he batted .300 or higher since turning pro.
“His first round of batting practice last year, you could tell it was a little bit different. He was just a little bit stronger,” Coste said. “The ball just started jumping off his bat. … When he makes contact, he’s not the .200 hitter, singles hitter that he used to be. He competes and he’s turned himself into a major threat at the plate.”
Dexter comes from an athletic family. He played baseball, basketball and hockey at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine. Tom Dexter, his father, has been an assistant football coach at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, for three decades. He was also a head baseball coach at the Division III school for 15 years. Sam spent many spring days in the dugout while growing up.
“That was kind of my upbringing, being the bat boy,” Sam said. “That’s where my love for the game comes from.”
Sam added longtime Southern Maine head baseball coach Ed Flaherty is also among his top baseball influences. Early in Sam’s college career, Flaherty instilled the idea that Dexter could develop into a pro player. Dexter said he didn’t have thoughts of becoming a professional until that point.
“I’ve had some great mentors along the way,” Sam said.
Sam is hoping his career arc is similar to Coste, who also played at a Division III college (Concordia) and the RedHawks before he eventually made it to the Major Leagues.
“Coste is a daily inspiration for me. Knowing his story and being able to talk to him is special for me,” Dexter said. “He’s been a big part of the success of the club. He definitely inspires me every day at the park. I feel lucky to have him as a manager here.”
Coste said Dexter’s improvement at the plate has him in a spot to get back into a Major League organization.
“It’s put him in a position to now get attention from Major League organizations, which was not going to happen a year ago or two years ago,” Coste said. “He just makes every single play look easier than it is, which that’s what good shortstops do.”