There are only a handful of players in the league capable of turning a last place ranked team into a legitimate threat to win the cup. Number 6 ranked Dustin Hamilton is one of those players and after missing the last two tournaments has announced he will be back in action for the underdogs in JAL XII...Boy does this change things.
Back in late August Dustin joined the league and was scooped up by the underdogs on a $15/2-tournament deal (this was before rookie contracts had limits obviously). He made his JAL debut in the next tournament, JAL IX, and lead the underdogs to an undefeated regular season and #1 overall seed heading into the playoffs. The underdogs were subsequently upset by the #4 Cobras in the semifinals, however.
Dustin began the tournament as the team's starting pitcher, but struggled to find accuracy (which is was weird because of his current status as a professional baseball player overseas). After a couple games Kyle Koopman replaced him as the team’s starter. Though there is an ongoing joke around the league that Dustin was a huge bust at pitcher, he did dominate with the bat. His .400 batting average and 4 home runs in JAL IX earned him the Batting Crown and an all-star selection.
Literally a day after JAL IX Dustin got on a plane and headed down to Australia to play pro baseball, and just returned home a couple days ago. Because of that he was inactive for JAL X and XI. In both tournaments the underdogs missed the playoffs and had a combined record of 1-5. It’s been a rough go without Dustin for the franchise, who still has yet to win a WWCD Cup.
Team owner Cathy Woodruff could have just cut Dustin or tried to trade him during that time and used the roster space to go in another direction, build the team around somebody else….But she decided to hold onto him, patiently waiting for his to return, because she knows he is the type of player who could finally get her team over the top.
On The Pitch a few days ago Brock mentioned how the u-dogs have a lot of (probably too many) possible starting pitchers on their team (Adam Clark, Kyle Koopman, and Tierney Uhlenkott). Well we can officially add Dustin to that list as well. After announcing he is active for JAL XII, Dustin said he plans on practicing pitching before the tournament so he can live up to being the great pitcher everyone expected him to be in the beginning. Either way, he is probably the best batter to ever play in the JAL, so regardless of how the pitching situation works out he is a huge boost to Ubbelohde Hill.
With Dustin back, the u-dogs have moved up to #5 in the power rankings.
Note: Keep in mind that Dustin is in the final tournament of his contract with Ubbelohde Hill and that days after JAL XII he will be heading to Europe for another few months to play more pro baseball… But we’ll leave speculation about Dustin’s future with the underdogs post-JAL XII and ultimately his return to the JAL in general after his season in Europe for another day.