South Dakota native Aaron LaBrie returns to his roots

Aaron LaBrie pitching a baseball

For Aaron LaBrie, playing baseball at Wichita State was a dream come true. The left-handed relief pitcher, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota native, threw for a combined four-year earned run average of 2.42. He finished his collegiate career with a record of 12-5 in 149 innings pitched.

“Wichita State has such an amazing history of success,” LaBrie said. “It was everything you could want out of a program. I got to play under Hall of Fame coaches Gene Stephenson and Brent Kemnitz, both of whom had an amazing passion and knowledge for the game.”

While LaBrie credits his success at the collegiate level to hard work and passionate coaches, he knows that had he not made the decision to play for the Sioux Falls Cyclones in high school, his path to success would have been a lot steeper. The Cyclones is a traveling baseball and softball organization for players ranging from 11 years old to seniors in high school. Led by Steve Phillips, the Cyclones train year-round at the Sanford Fieldhouse.

“I am not sure that I would have made it to Wichita State had I not played for the Cyclones,” LaBrie said. “The bottom line is that aside from maybe one or two major summer tournaments, most college coaches stay within their state. I got noticed, and offered, by Wichita State because the Cyclones traveled to Wichita. I was able to play in front of the coaches on their own field.”

Student of the game

In his final year at Wichita State, LaBrie realized his dream of playing in the MLB was coming to an end. Instead of giving up the sport for good, he made it his mission to learn everything he could about the game.

Every game that LaBrie wasn’t pitching in, you could find him sitting next to his coaches, notebook in hand, writing down and absorbing their every word.

“I think my college coaches would probably tell you that I’m the most annoying player to ever come through Wichita. I would ask them questions like ‘Why did you move the short stop over? Why did we throw that pitch in that location? Why did we do a hit and run instead of a straight steal?’ To this day I still have that notebook.”

All of that time spent studying the game and absorbing knowledge paid off for LaBrie. In 2018 he put down the glove and picked up a clipboard. LaBrie is now the assistant coach of the very team he played for just a few years ago.

“The Cyclones of today look much different than the Cyclones team that I played for, and that is a good thing,” LaBrie said. “When I played, we had one team and we practiced on the Armory basketball court in the winters. The Sanford Fieldhouse provides us with an ample amount of room to cover every aspect of the game, and the training staff we have really sets us apart.”

Poised for another successful year

With Phillips’ leadership and LaBrie’s collegiate pitching experience, the Cyclones are poised for another successful year.

“I think every great program, whether that’s youth, college, or professional, needs to have both a hitting mind and a pitching mind,” LaBrie said. “Having both Steve and myself in the program allows both of us to focus on our strengths. Steve gets to spend the majority of his practices working with the hitters while I get to spend my time focusing on the defensive part of the game.”

LaBrie encourages players of all ages who are interested in playing at a higher level to consider trying out for the Sioux Falls Cyclones.

“I truly believe that if your goal is to play baseball or softball at the next level, the Cyclones provides you with the best opportunity to fulfill that desire.”

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