Kalamazoo, Mich. – Two former Kalamazoo Growlers have been named as the 2023 Minor League Player of the Year underneath their respective organizations. 2020 and 2021 Growler Blake Dunn (Reds) and 2018 Growler Joey Loperfido (Astros) were awarded the honor by Baseball America on Sept. 19. Loperfido and Dunn become the third and fourth former Growlers to be named Minor League Players of the Year with all coming in the past two seasons. 2018 Growlers Niko Kavadas (Red Sox) and Matt Mervis (Cubs) were also named Minor League Players of the Year in 2022.
Reds winner Blake Dunn has a local connection to the Growlers and the Kalamazoo area. The 2020 and 2021 Growler from Holland, Michigan played all four years of his college career at Western Michigan University located in Kalamazoo. A career .331 hitter with 11 home runs and 50 stolen bases, Dunn was named Baseball America’s 2nd best athlete in college baseball in 2020, a part of the 2020 Golden Spikes Watch List, and the MAC Preseason Player of the Year in 2021. In his first year with the Growlers, Dunn was the Rawlings Big Stick Award Winner after hitting .349 across 63 games. Dunn matched the average with a league-best 32 stolen bases and third-best nine doubles. Following his senior season with the WMU, Dunn appeared in 13 games with the Growlers before being drafted in the 15th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. After a pair of seasons derailed by injuries, 2023 proved to be his best at the minor league level. Hitting 23 home runs and snagging 54 bags, Dunn became one of just five players in the last 30 years with a 20-50 season in the minors. He joins the likes of Andrew Jones, Anthony Volpe, Ryan Bliss, and Jonatan Clase.
Joey Loperfido adds to what has been an incredible legacy for the Growlers 2018 team. 21 players on that squad have played affiliated baseball with three already having made their major league debuts. Loperfido came to Kalamazoo following his freshman All-American season at Duke University. Following a successful college career with the Blue Devils where he helped the group win their first-ever ACC Baseball Championship, Loperfido was selected in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. This season, Loperfido skyrocketed up from High A to AAA across 124 games. Across the three levels, Loperfido slashed .278/.370/.510 with 27 stolen bases and a career-high 25 home runs and 78 RBI.
The #GrowlersPipeline continues to extend its reach across professional baseball having three K-Zoo alumni make their major league debuts this season. More is in store for 2024!
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Now in its’ 29th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires, and front office staff, 300 a Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. League games are viewable live at watchnwl.com and on ESPN+. For more information, visit www.growlersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Growlers as your favorite team.