By Noel Fary
After a short yet dominating season on the Lake County Corn Dogs, Ray Hilbrich, 23, of Schererville, will play professional baseball with the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL).
Hilbrich, a Lake Central High School graduate, became the first Corn Dog’s player to sign with a professional baseball team. For Hilbrich, it is a dream come true.
“I was sort of in disbelief,” said the left-handed power-hitting outfielder. “It didn’t really hit me at first. It’s what you always dream of, playing professional baseball.”
The Beavers were the USPBL’s champions in 2022, an independent baseball league based in Michigan, which has seen numerous players go on to play in Major League Baseball.
In 12 games played for the Corn Dogs, Hilbrich boasts an impressive .333 average as well as a league-leading four home runs. He also took home the Northern League’s first Player of the Week award this season.
Hilbrich finished his career at Purdue University Northwest with an impressive season, leading the team in almost every offensive category. In 2023, he was named First Team All-Conference in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). Since joining PNC in 2018 as a freshman, Hilbrich has been a consistent contributor for the Pride.
The Northern League is no stranger to Hilbrich, as he created an impressive resume throughout his years in the league, dating back to 2019. With multiple player of the week awards, all-star appearances and a league MVP in 2020 while a member of the Crestwood Panthers, Hilbrich’s career sits as one of the most decorated in recent Northern League history.
Hilbrich believes hard work and dedication helped him reach his lifelong goal of playing professional baseball.
“It’s everything you work for, grinding, long hours in the cage, all of it led to this,” he said.
Corn Dogs Majority Owner Ralph Flores said Hilbrich’s signing is a testament to the talent across the Northern League and to the success of the franchise, which is now in its second year and won the league championship in 2022 during its inaugural season.
“The entire Corn Dogs organization is truly excited for Ray and wishes him the best as he ascends into the professional ranks,” Flores said. “We truly enjoyed having Ray here and he meant so much to our team through his play and leadership. We will miss having him on our team, but he has shown that playing for this organization is an opportunity to develop and showcase your talent and take it to the next level.”
Photo by Josh Brunette