USPBL standout signs Major League Baseball contract

RHP, metro Detroit native joining Colorado Rockies organization

By: Zachary Manning | Metro | Published February 18, 2021

 Dugan Darnell was recently signed by the Colorado Rockies organization after spending two years in the USPBL. Darnell posted a 0.31 ERA in 2020.

Dugan Darnell was recently signed by the Colorado Rockies organization after spending two years in the USPBL. Darnell posted a 0.31 ERA in 2020.

Photo provided by USPBL

METRO DETROIT — Whether it be whiffle ball in the backyard, tee ball for the city team or playing video games on the TV, baseball has been a constant in Dugan Darnell’s life for as long as he can remember.

Darnell was like most kids who grew up playing baseball. He dreamed of one day getting to play professionally. After high school in Northville, he went on to play at Adrian College before finding a spot in the United Shores Professional Baseball League.

He would spend 2019 and 2020 in the USPBL, still searching for a pro team to give him a shot. He shined in his time with the Eastside Diamond Hoppers and continued to put his name out there for teams to see.

Eventually, the Colorado Rockies came calling and signed him to a deal within the organization. As he grew up dreaming, Darnell will get his chance to play professional baseball.

“It was completely unexpected,” Darnell said. “I knew I was down the right path, and I had a great 2020 year, and I was right on schedule with my offseason plans sending them video. When it all went down, my heart dropped. It was a very emotional day for my family and I.”

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound righty was dominant in 2020, posting numbers the Rockies couldn’t pass up. He appeared in 23 games, while tossing 29 innings, collecting 52 strikeouts and posting a 0.31 ERA.

Darnell, 23, is now the 38th player to be signed by a major league organization from the USPBL. Darnell is appreciative of his time with the league and attributes his success to learning a lot in his time with the Diamond Hoppers.

In his two years with the league, he saw his game take the next step. He worked on his mechanics, improved his command and velocity, and became a better pitcher overall.

“I was able to get the mechanics in line and understand more about myself and how my pitches work,” Darnell said. “Instead of just throwing, I’m pitching and able to be dangerous in any count to any hitter no matter what my scouting report says.”

While he proved a lot in his time with the USPBL, Darnell knows there is more to do as he transitions to life within a major league organization.

As he works to climb the minor league ladder, he wants to develop as much as he can in the lower levels and throw as many strikes as possible. Long term, he hopes to not only play in the MLB, but also be an impact player when he’s there.

He noted that his adrenaline will be pumping when he hits the mound for the first time in a professional game, but he will trust his mechanics and training, while taking in the moment.

“The Rockies are going to get one of the hardest working guys that they’ve ever had,” Darnell said. “I’m hoping to use their coaches and resources and grow my game to the best of my ability to not only make an impact in the organization, but in the big leagues.”

As for the USPBL, the league has improved in its ability to give players the resources they need to understand the game better, including coaches and equipment.

But according to USPBL Director of Baseball Operations Justin Orenduff, those resources can only take a player so far. It really comes down to the player utilizing those resources in a way to become a more productive player.

As he watched Darnell in the league, he noticed that he was one of those guys that understood the work it would take to get him where he wanted to be.

“Dugan always asked questions, wanted to get better, and for two straight years he put time into understanding his delivery, he put time into the weight room and adding size and strength,” Orenduff said. “He started to blossom into a prospect that was then worthy of getting the attention of major league organizations.”