HOT TOTS FILLING IN THE MISSING PIECES
Three New Players Have Been Added To 2023 Roster
MINOT, ND – The Minot Hot Tots are currently working on building their 2023 roster of collegiate athletes. These athletes will be coming from all over the country to create the first ever Hot Tots baseball team. Currently, coach Mitch Gallagher is working to bring different talents together to create a strong team. With the season quickly approaching, there are a few pieces left to fill in, so Gallagher has just signed more talent to fill these spots. Paxton Miller, Jason Blackstone, and Mike Villani are the three newest editions to this inaugural season roster.
Paxton Miller is a junior right-handed pitcher from the University of Mary in Bismarck. Paxton was originally born in Minot and moved to Bismarck. He played baseball at Legacy High School before starting his collegiate career at the University of Mary.
The University of Mary is an NCAA Division II program in the Nothern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. They moved to the NSIC from the NAIA in 2006. While in the NAIA the program had 1 Conference Championship, 2 Conference Tournament Championships, and 3 Conference Tournament Runner Up finishes. And 3 Regional Appearance with the last being in 2002. In the last 3 years, the program had finished in the top 10 of the conference standings. The program has also produced 1 MLB player, Jay Flaa who debuted with the Yankees in April of 2021.
Paxton’s athletic career at the University of Mary started in the 2020 season but was cut short. In 2021, he served as the team’s closer, and in 12 innings pitched he struck out 19 batters. That year he also set a record for the university with 5 saves on the season. Last year he played 11 games with 18 strikeouts and had the 3rd most strikeouts per 9 innings at 11.5. He also has experience playing in the Northwoods League, as he pitched for the Bismarck Larks and the Bismarck Bull Moose, which was a separate team under the Larks that helped to continue having baseball in Bismarck during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paxton is excited to come back to Minot to play, he said. “Looking forward to a great summer being a Hot Tot and being able to play where I grew up!”
While playing in Bismarck, Paxton had the opportunity to play under Hot Tots coach, Mitch Gallagher. “I’m excited to be able to have him for a third summer now,” said Gallagher. “Paxton’s a veteran to the league and a great addition to our staff. He’s a bulldog on the mount and goes right after hitter.”
The next player to join the Hot Tot’s roster, is Jason Blackstone, a junior second baseman and shortstop from Indialantic, Florida, playing at the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). FIT is an NCAA Division II program in the Sunshine State Conference. In the last 7 seasons, the program has finished with 4 top 5 conference standings, the best being a second-place finish in the 2021 season. The program has produced 2 MLB players, Tim Wakefield who played for the Pirates in 1992-1993 and the Red Sox in 1995-2011, and Austin Allen who played for the Padres in 2019 and the Athletics from 2020-2022.
So far this season, Jason has a batting average of .336 with 2 home runs on the season as well 57 putouts, 89 assists, and a fielding percentage of .954. Before playing for FIT Jason played for Eastern Florida State College, an NJCAA Division I program in Florida. While playing for them, he was a First Team All-Conference athlete and was coached by Hot Tots coach, Mitch Gallagher. “I had the pleasure of coaching him a year ago and you won’t see a guy that plays the game harder than him,” said Gallagher. “Jason is a gamer. He’s a versatile infielder able to float around the infield and a legitimate bat we can use almost anywhere in the lineup.”
Jason is ready to experience what North Dakota has to offer. “I’m extremely excited to be able to play in Minot this summer and represent the town,” Jason said. “I can’t wait to meet the players and to become part of the community. Being in North Dakota should be an amazing experience and I’m ready to get up there!”
The third player added is Mike Villani, a sophomore right-handed pitcher from Oceanside California, playing at Palomar College. Palomar College is a program in the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) in the Pacific Coast Conference. The program has been extremely strong in its conference with all Top 3 conference finishes in the last 8 years, 3 of which were Conference Champions. In its history in the CCCAA, Palomar College has had 4 State Regional Championships and 9 Conference Championships. Last season Palomar was the Conference and Regional Champion, but was knocked out in the first round of play of the state championship tournament. Palomar is also the alma mater of coach Mitch Gallagher and knows that they consistently produce quality arms.
So far this season, Mike has made 13 game appearances and has pitched in 13.1 innings with 12 strikeouts. Before playing at Palomar College, Mike played for a season at Santa Clara University (SCU), an NCAA Division 1 program in the West Coast Conference. SCU has produced 5 MLB first-round draft picks in its history but has found itself in recent years finishing on the lower end of the conference. While playing with SCU, Mike appeared in 2 games and pitched 1.1 innings with 4 strikeouts. He made his college debut with a scoreless inning with 3 strikeouts. Mike is ready to come up to North Dakota and continue working on his game, “I am more than excited to announce that I will be playing for the Minot Hot Tots this summer and can’t wait to get after it and do some damage,” Mike said. Coach Gallagher is confident that Mike will be a strong addition to the pitching lineup this summer. “Mike was a big addition to our staff. He recently committed to Long Beach State and is dominating California Juco as a closer at one of the top programs,” said Gallagher. “Excited to bring him aboard as an arm that can either close one out or give us multiple innings when needed.”
Fans can find information on purchasing tickets on the Hot Tots website. Any fans interested in being involved in other aspects of the game like game-day staff, host families, corporate tickets, fundraising, or group outings are encouraged to go to www.hottotsbaseball.com as well. Anyone who wants to be the first to know about all Hot Tots news can sign up for the e-newsletter on the website as well.