USPBL provides opportunity for semi-pro athletes, fun to locals

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Zach Weimer

UTICA, Mich. — As is the case for many aspiring athletes, performing well in a semi-professional league can be a critical step toward achieving their pro ambitions. In Utica, Michigan, the United Shore Professional Baseball League gives players the opportunity to do so.

Jimmy John’s Field, home to the USPBL, has become the main stage for baseball players aiming to reach the major leagues, drawing aspiring professionals and fans from across Michigan.

This 4,500-seat stadium hosts four semi-professional teams: the Utica Unicorns, Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers, Eastside Diamond Hoppers and Westside Woolly Mammoths. 

When asked in an interview on the Pursuit of Precision podcast with Ryan Jaros, USPBL founder Andy Appleby said he established the league to create a high-quality, affordable entertainment option that also “serves as a launchpad for players’ professional careers.”

USPBL players are scouted regularly by major league teams. In eight seasons, 51 USPBL players have been signed up by Major League teams and assigned to minor league affiliate teams. 

In 2023, former Birmingham Bloomfield Beaver Randy Wynne signed with the Cincinnati Reds, and Joey Wiemer signed the same year with the Milwaukee Brewers. That brings the total number of former USPBL players who have been drafted to a major league team to five.

Community relations coordinator Noah Theiler highlighted the support provided to the league’s players. 

“We have three options for the players’ living situations,” Theiler explained. “Local families can sign up to host players, the league provides apartments for a dorm-like experience, or local players often live with their families.”

For local players like Andre Demetral, an infielder with the Utica Unicorns, choosing among these options is the easy part of transitioning from college ball to the semi-professional level. The hard part involves navigating a less structured environment where self-discipline is key.

“College ball is very organized,” said Demetral. “You have to be at places at a certain time, everyone stretches at a certain time, coaches tell you exactly what to do, and every day looks the same. Professional baseball is a little different in the fact you do a lot of things on your own.”

While players may face challenges in adjusting to the differences in the USPBL, there is no doubt they thrive in bringing entertainment to the young fans.

“Bringing my kids to the games has been a fantastic way for us to spend time together,” said Wendy Cavis, mother of two, who attended the Unicorn’s June 22 game. “It’s just a cheap and fun thing. The kids love going and it keeps them entertained.”

Local residents watch as the Uttica Unicorns and Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers face off at their June 22 game. Credit: Zach Weimer

Game one of Saturday night’s doubleheader ended with a win for the Bloomfield Birmingham Beavers (3-12) against the Utica Unicorns (9-8), with a score of 4-1. With a tied game until the top of the sixth inning, Malek Bolin’s double hitter was able to bring in three runs to win the game for the Beavers. 

The next game for the league is on July 12, with the Utica Unicorns facing off against the West Side Woolly Mammoths. Locals can find details on future games and purchase tickets at