HIBBING — When Cole Mammenga was recruited to Hibbing Community College, his main sport was basketball.
But the Hibbing High School graduate has one other passion — baseball.
Mammenga knew it would take up too much of his time to try and play both sports as a freshman, but when his sophomore year rolled around, he wanted to give baseball a try.
For 10 games Mammenga suited up for the Cardinal nine, then while in Arizona, the trip and season were canceled due to COVID-19.
That ended Mammenga’s baseball season, but he’s going to give baseball another shot next year as he signed a letter of intent on May 12, to hit the diamond at the University of Minnesota-Morris in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.
Mammenga didn’t get any looks out of high school, but he used an application called Field Level to send out videos of his time on the field.
“We put some highlights on their profiles, putting them in the schools that would be fitting to play at,” Mammenga said. “A few of the schools got back to me, and Morris was one of them.
“They stood out. They have a secondary education program that’s phenomenal, and their coach used to be a pitching coach. He is their head coach now, but he has a lot of knowledge and experience with pitching.”
Mammenga always loved baseball, but when he was a junior on Hibbing High School baseball team, he didn’t see much playing time. He did play as a senior.
“We had a lot of seniors my junior year, so I grew away from it a little bit,” Mammenga said. “I focused on basketball, but taking that year off, I realized I missed the sport, the intensity of being around the other guys.
“I got drawn back into it.”
At Hibbing Community College, Mammenga knew he would be able to handle being a two-sport athlete, especially as freshman.
“I thought it was going to be too much,” he said. “They were recruiting me for basketball, so I didn’t try to get a spot on the baseball team. I regretted it. I enjoy basketball, but I wish I would have played baseball last year.
“I’m glad I did it this year, for as long as it lasted.”
Hibbing did get 10 games in, but Mammenga didn’t play in all of them. He did see some mound time, however.
He plans on throwing for the Cougars next season, and with Coach Matt O’Brien’s help, Mammenga will try to make some big strides as a pitcher.
“I mostly have to work on my arm strength and location,” Mammenga said. “That will come more when I work with him.”
Mammenga also likes the teamwork and chemistry involved with the game.
“You have to have all nine guys on the same page on every pitch,” Mammenga said. Mammenga did participate in fall ball in 2019, and he was looking forward to the spring season starting.
Once basketball ended, Mammenga joined the spring trip, then the coronavirus broke out, which ended his return to the field.
“I thought fall ball went well for me,” Mammenga said. “I was getting back in the groove when it was canceled. It was tough on me and the whole team. We were in Arizona. It was getting nice out, and we had four games left over two days.
“We didn’t get to play them. It was an awful feeling.”
That’s when Morris came calling, and since his signing, Mammenga has been in contact with Coach O’Brien. He will be ready to go when the fall season starts.
“He texted me recommending a workout plan to get my mechanics developed, but he wants to work with me one-on-one,” Mammenga said. “I’m excited to get going with that.”
Mammenga does have three years of eligibility left for baseball, but he could get that fourth year back. Whether he takes that will remain to be seen.
In the meantime, Mammenga will wait to see what happens with summer baseball.
He could play amateur ball with the Hibbing Miners, if they’re allowed back on the field.
“I’ll definitely text Jamie Steinberg to see what the deal is,” Mammenga said. “It’s all about building arm strength and fine tuning everything for the fall season.”
What about basketball?
“I’ll talk to the basketball coach when I get there,” Mammenga said. “It would be cool to play two sports, but at the same time, I was recruited for baseball. I have to focus on that.
“I could play in a men’s league or in intramurals, but I have to be focused during the baseball season. I’m excited to get down there, get moved in and to get to work on baseball and school.”