Former Mankato MoonDog and current San Diego Padre Erik Hamren made his Major League debut Monday night in San Diego against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hamren pitched a scoreless 9th inning in San Diego’s 6-2 loss, striking out Dee Gordon to end the inning. The 6’1” 195-pound righty was promoted to the big leagues on July 31st after the Padres traded relief pitcher Mike Adams to the Texas Rangers.
Hamren’s journey to the majors was relatively short, especially considering that he was pitching in independent professional baseball during 2010. He spent about half of the summer of 2008 pitching in the Northwoods League with the Mankato MoonDogs. Hamren was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 37th round in ’08 but didn’t sign his first professional contract until after making 15 appearances for Mankato. He went 1-2 with six saves and a 2.04 ERA in 17 2/3 innings in the NWL before opting to sign with the Cubs. He pitched collegiately in his home state of California at Saddleback College after transferring from the University of the Pacific.
Hamren made three stops in the Chicago Cubs farm system in 2008 and 2009 but was let go following the ’09 campaign where he had a 5.98 ERA in 38 games for Peoria in the Single-A Midwest League. After successful stints with Kansas City and Joliet in the Independent Northern League in 2010, the 24-year old signed a minor league contract with the Padres this past offseason. In 48 combined games in Single-A and Double-A ball this year Hamren was 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA. He struck out 69 and walked 14 in the minors before making the jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues.
Hamren joins shortstop Brandon Crawford of the San Francisco Giants as the second former Mankato MoonDogs player to make his Major League debut this season. Hamren became the 79th former Northwoods League player to reach the Major Leagues all time and the 42nd to play during the 2011 season.
The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America.