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Eric Peterson, Published July 23 2012

Rookie has provided RedHawks with a spark

Fargo

The name transformation took place somewhere between his first and second birthdays for Buddy Sosnoskie.

“My first birthday cake said, ‘Happy Birthday Merritt’ on it,” Sosnoskie said with a smile. “My second one said, ‘Happy Birthday Buddy.’ ”

Sosnoskie has more than just a catchy name these days. The former Francis Marion (S.C.) University star has an infectious smile and sweet mustache to go along with a baseball game that is getting him noticed.

The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rookie right fielder leads the team with a .366 batting average in 36 games. At this point, he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to show up among the American Association league leaders in batting average.

The left-handed swinging Sosnoskie has flourished since being inserted into the No. 2 spot in the batting order in early July.

“To ask a rookie to come and bat at the top of the lineup, it’s been a pretty special few weeks or so,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “We hope he can continue it.”

Sosnoskie said he got the nickname “Buddy” from an older brother who had a “My Buddy” doll that he played with during his early childhood.

Sosnoskie – who was named Merritt after his grandfather – joined the RedHawks at the start of June, soon after he ended his collegiate career at Francis Marion, which is located in Florence, S.C.

Sosnoskie played two seasons for the NCAA Division II baseball power after starting his career at Division I Virginia Tech.

Sosnoskie was drafted in the 25th round of 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Kansas City Royals after solid redshirt sophomore season with the Hokies. After Sosnoskie decided not to sign with the Royals, he ended up transferring to Francis Marion.

While Sosnoskie hoped he would get drafted again in last June’s MLB Draft, he likes the situation he’s in with the RedHawks.

“I love it,” Sosnoskie said. “I’m getting paid to play a little kids game. It’s good competition. If I would have been drafted in 30th round, I’d be playing short season or rookie ball. Here I’m getting to play against a bunch of better competition.”

Sosnoskie has helped the RedHawks climb back to the top of the American Association North Division standings.

The RedHawks (38-23) have been the hottest team in the league with a 17-3 record in July. F-M hosts Sioux Falls at 7:02 p.m. today at Newman Outdoor Field to start a three-game series.

The RedHawks had a 7-19 record through the first 28 games, and it was around that time when Sosnoskie decided to go with the mustache, hoping to help turn the team’s fortunes.

“As a rookie, I’m willing to take that bullet and grow the mustache if we need one,” Sosnoskie said with a big smile before joking. “Girls will tell me ‘I need to shave it. It doesn’t look good.’ I’m like ‘We’re winning.’ ”

Simunic said outfielder Jon Gaston calls Sosnoskie “stache nasty” because of the mustache.

“He’s got a mustache,” Simunic cracked. “He’s growing up fast in this baseball world.”

Sosnoskie comes from a strong baseball family. Sosnoskie said he has an uncle who was drafted, a grandpa who could have signed with the Philadelphia Athletics and a brother who played at Virginia Tech. He also has a sister who played college softball.

The 23-year-old has helped inject a youthful energy into the RedHawks. Sosnoskie has difference-making speed, whether he’s using it to track down fly balls in the outfield or beat out an infield hit.

“Everybody loves those young guys who just come in here and do well for the RedHawks,” said shortstop Zach Penprase, who bats lead off for F-M.

Initially, Sosnoskie wasn’t sure what to expect when he first heard he was headed to Fargo to play independent baseball. It’s proven to be a solid fit.

“I love this town,” said Sosnoskie. “It’s grown on me … I want to win here. That’s all I want to do is help ‘Simmy’ get some wins and play for a good crowd out here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com