By Doug Donnelly
Britton native Duane Below is headed overseas again to continue his professional baseball career.
Below, 29, was signed over the weekend by the Yokohama BayStars in Japan. The signing was made over the weekend after Below was released by the New York Mets, which was done to apparently allow the left-handed starter and reliever to sign with Yokohama.
“I’d like to use him quickly. I’m counting on him,” said BayStars manager Kiyoshi Nakahata, in a press release by the team.
Below was signed to a minor league contract by the Mets during the off-season. He had a solid spring training, even pitching for the Mets on a couple of occasions before being assigned to the Las Vegas 51’s of the Pacific Coast League. In early June Below was named the PCL Player of the Week after pitching a four-hit shutout.
Below’s release and signing came after a strong outing against Salt Lake City in which he retired all six batters he faced, including three by strikeout, and amid speculation he might be in the Mets plans. He had just come off the seven-day disabled list. In all, he was 4-3 this year for Triple-A Las Vegas with a 2.19 ERA in 49-1/3 innings. He started five of his 11 games and had two complete games.
Below played outfield and pitched in high school for Britton-Deerfield, helping the Patriots, under coach Andy Clark, to the Tri-County Conference championship his senior season. He played Legion baseball for Hall of Fame coach Larry Tuttle the summer after his senior campaign and went on to play college baseball at Lake Michigan Community College before being a 19th round draft pick in the Major League Baseball draft. He has a 60-49 career minor league pitching win-loss record.
He worked his way up through the minor leagues in the Detroit Tiger organization before ultimately being called up to pitch for Detroit. He has appeared in 43 major league games between Detroit and the Miami Marlins, compiling a 2-4 record between 2011 and 2013. He has a 4.27 ERA. He spent part of one season pitching in South Korea, his first stint overseas.
This isn’t the first time Below made news in Japan. While pitching for the Tigers, Below surrendered the 500th career home run by Japan native Hideki Matsui. Most of those hits by Matsui were hit while he played in the Japanese professional league before coming to America.