In a new monthly feature, we will be catching you up on the transactions and developments in the German Bundesliga. In our first edition, Heidenheim strengthen an already strong squad, Hamburg bring in an experienced hand and Regensburg sign a record-setting pitcher.
The northern German club lost an important piece as they prepare for the 2021 season but also added a Canadian import with over 700 games played in organized and independent baseball.
First, the bad news. The Stealers lost Sam Belisle-Springer, who had been penciled into the lineup as the import pitcher, to the independent Frontier League.
However, the club did manage to secure the services of former Minor Leaguer Mike Blanke, a catcher and first baseman. Blanke was drafted out of the University of Tampa in 2010 by the Chicago White Sox and played organized baseball until 2015, topping out at Double-A, where he played 96 games. Since 2015, the Canadian has been active in various independent leagues, appearing on the field in 335 games and slashing .252/.326/.368 over that period.
The Reds have brought back a familiar face: Croatian national team player Antonio Horvatic. The versatile Horvatic previously played in Stuttgart in 2019, and in the Bundesliga the season before that with the IT sure Falcons. Horvatic is a utility player without equal, with experience at practically every position, including on the mound.
Guggenberger Legionäre Regensburg
After many years of partnership with Buchbinder, Regensburg have signed a new sponsorship deal with Guggenberger GmbH, a regional construction firm. And in the first move under a new name, the club signed Kaleb Bowman, a RHP with a low-90s fastball who starred at Appalachian State University in 2018-19. He was named team MVP in his final season with the Mountaineers after going 6-2 and amassing 4 saves, with a 3.05 ERA in 62 innings of work. He most recently played in the Australian Greater Brisbane League, where he struck out a league record 160 batters in 95 innings.
The reigning German champions have signed Ross Vance, a LHP with Minor League experience, in addition to welcoming back former players Logan Grigsby and Aaron Dunsmore.
Vance, who pitched at West Virginia University in 2014-16 (17-11 career record and a sub-4 ERA in 246.1 innings), made it as high as Double-A in the St. Louis Cardinals system. He has experience in various independent leagues and was named “Best Pitcher” at the 2019 World Port Tournament.
Grigsby, an American RHP with a German passport, returns to Heidenheim after spending a shortened 2020 season in Nettuno. He wore the club’s jersey the two seasons before departing for Italy, helping the Heideköpfe finish second in 2018, before winning the title in 2019.
The 32-year-old Dunsmore , a Winnipeg native, has played in the US, Australia, Sweden, and Germany, in addition to his native Canada. He is a left-handed outfield bat who can also play the middle infield and pitch. He first joined Heidenheim in 2015 and returns to the club for the 2021 season hoping to repeat on the .439 batting average he produced in his first go-around with the perennial contenders. That 2015 season, it should be noted, also ended with a German championship, with Dunsmore contributing when it mattered most, hitting .310 with 2 home runs, and driving in 11 runs in 11 playoff games.
The Heideköpfe have their eyes set on a third-straight Bundesliga title, in addition to challenging for the CEB Champions Cup in Ostrava in July. The club’s January signings strengthen an already formidable squad and make Heidenheim the early favorite for the 2021 German crown.
The Bundesliga is scheduled to kick off the 2021 season on April 3rd.