UMD Bulldogs land Legred for baseball
Next spring, Kaylan Legred should be trotting onto the diamond at Wade Stadium near Grand Avenue in Duluth.
The park, built in 1941 at the close of baseball’s live-ball era, shines with the ever-green touch of AstroTurf thanks to a $2.2-million renovation in 2014.
And its capacity, 4,200 people, outnumbers the entire population of Blue Earth, where Legred is playing his final season as a member of Blue Earth Area High School’s varsity Buccaneers.
But the impending move to the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) from rural Southern Minnesota, finalized with Legred inking a National Letter of Intent on Friday, April 14, does not faze the BEA senior.
“It’s Division II, so it’ll probably be a big transition,” Legred says. “But the competition’s great, and so is just getting a chance to play.”
It turns out Legred, a four-year starter at catcher who also earned All-Big South Conference honors for his role on BEA’s football team in 2016, had a chance to play for quite a few programs.
“I had a couple schools in mind,” he says. “St. Mary’s and (Minnesota State University, Mankato) were some. But I visited campus at UMD, really liked it and liked the coach’s style.”
It was late August 2016 when Legred began ramping up his college decision process, the same time he was starting at wide receiver and cornerback for the playoff-bound Bucs on the gridiron and not long before he started contributing to Fairmont High School’s ice hockey team.
Legred got offers to play both of those sports at the collegiate level, the senior’s mother, Julie, says.
Baseball, though, has long been Legred’s passion.
“This has always been No 1,” he says.
Buccaneers head coach Todd Schmidtke backed up that claim after Legred inked his commitment to UMD alongside BEA activities director Rob Norman and Legred’s family brother Karson and parents Brent and Julie.
“He’s about as good a catcher as I’ve ever had,” Schmidtke says. “I think he’s going to do very well … it’s nice to have (a player) as good as Kaylan going to play at the college level.”
And it is not as if Legred will not have an opportunity to make a name for himself on an up-and-coming team, either.
The Bulldogs, competing in Division II, rattled off an 18-game winning streak en route to an appearance in the NCAA’s Central Regional tournament in 2016, capturing a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title for the first time since 2003. Under coach Bob Rients, five players from UMD’s roster have gone on to either earn All-American honors or have their rights purchased by a Major League Baseball team in the last 15 years.
“If I get the opportunity to keep playing after college, that’d be great,” Legred says.
In the meantime, the BEA standout is focused on rounding out his time with the Buccaneers. He says his familiarity with the catcher position, a spot that helped him “grow into a leadership role” alongside teammates, may or may not translate to a job behind the plate with the Bulldogs.
“The first year, they might move me around,” he says. “I’ve pitched and played the infield, so both of those could be possible.”
Versatility, in fact, is one of Legred’s assets, as evidenced not only by the multiple offers he got for multiple sports but by the senior’s devotion to baseball across several leagues.
“I’ve done youth leagues and national teams during the fall and winter months,” says Legred, also noting his experience with the former state champion Blue Earth Pirates, the town’s amateur baseball team.
Next spring, though, with his Bucs uniform having been worn for a final time, he expects to have just as much reason to anticipate hitting the diamond.
Even one glossed with turf, surrounded with fans and representing the next step in one Buccaneer’s transition to a Bulldog.