Michael Babcock was a multi-sport standout athlete at both Aberdeen Central and Presentation College. While he was a sharp-shooting basketball player at both schools, there was always something about baseball that got him going. Still does.
Now 32, Babcock is a key member of the Aberdeen Circus Sports Bar and Grill amateur baseball team. When asked if he still gets butterflies, Babcock responded, “Baseball is the only sport that does it to me, but absolutely. I love sports, but baseball is really the only one that can give me that feeling that I’ve had, that feeling of excitement.”
Babcock and his teammates have plenty of reason to be excited as they head into the Class A State Tournament this weekend. They are undefeated on the season, recently picked up two quality players from Castlewood, and appear to have plenty of pitching on hand.
Circus hasn’t played as many games as other teams, but it did show it has as much talent as anybody when it started out the year by winning a prominent tournament. The event featured teams like two-time defending Class A state champion Harrisburg Hops (formerly Sioux Falls Brewers), along with Brookings. Three of the four Circus wins came in extra winnings.
Circus takes on the Black Hills A’s at 5 p.m. Saturday in Brookings. It will play again on Sunday and then hopes to make it to the finals the following weekend in Mitchell.
Circus finished runner-up at state in 2018, but has been unable to climb the final rung on the ladder so far.
Babcock is no stranger to success on the local diamond. He played on multiple state championship high school teams, and was a member on an Aberdeen Smittys team that finished runner-up in 2007, the year before the squad won its last state Legion title in 2008.
“Aberdeen has always done a great job of really producing great baseball teams. I was fortunate growing up to see that with the teams before me and you actually got to see the teams that were after,” Babcock said. “We’ve always just been very competitive. Because of that, I think that really brought me to love the game of baseball even more.”
Babcock also found that the sport of baseball is a great equalizer. You don’t have to be tall to be successful.
“In baseball especially, you don’t have to be 6-5, 6-8 to be effective, where like in basketball I was effective until I ran up against a 6-foot 6 guard and that might be just as quick as me,” Babcock said. “In baseball if you are able to really utilize the fundamentals and a lot of the knowledge of the game, you’re able to be competitive to a certain extent with what you have.”
Like a shooter who can suddenly find a rhythm seeing a ball go through a hoop, Babcock said the same thing happens in baseball when a batter gets a hit.
“Baseball is a weird sport. If you have a couple that you can square up and see the ball get down, you’re fortunate sometimes to kind of be able to continue that through,” he said. “There’s times where that baseball will look like a beachball and there’s times where you have no idea what’s going on, I feel like. Its just a weird sport. All it takes is maybe a little bleeder and it can completely turn you around.”
Baseball has provided many enjoyable moments for Babcock, including an opportunity to compete with and against his brothers, Mitch and Jesse.
“It takes you back to the backyard is what it does, sometimes. We’re all just so competitive,” Babcock said. “But I will say with age, hopefully I think we’ve matured a little where it’s a lot more fun, too, I’m getting to compete with my brothers or I’m getting to compete against my brothers. It’s a lot more fun to see that we’re all still around the area and able to do that together.”
Babcock gave a shout to Lonnie and Penny Frost for helping to ensure that amateur players are getting an opportunity to compete. The couple has a passion for the sport and do whatever they can to keep baseball a priority in the Hub City.
“They’ve went way above and beyond anything than anyone would ever expect for them to do,” Babcock said. “People say money doesn’t buy you happiness, which I 100 percent agree, but I will tell you their support has bought memories for so many people they don’t even know. These are memories that will I never let go. I’ll always have these.”
The shortstop is now hoping to add more items to his memory bank at this year’s state tourney.
“I would like to put us in the top handful of teams,” said Babcock, also pointing out the Sioux Falls squads as well as Brookings and Yankton as title contenders. “I’m not saying we’re going to be the favorite, favorite, but one thing we do have this year more than in past years, is we have pitching that we haven’t had. We’ve always had a few good pitchers, but this year, if everyone shows up, we have more pitching than we’ve ever had. That is the key to any state tournament.”
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