Gunner Laughhunn, at first interested in migrating someplace new, decided to make the Mattoon-to-Lake-Land baseball presence next fall one member larger.
Laughhunn signed with the Lakers Friday morning in front of family and friends in Mattoon’s athletic department office, joining Green Wave teammates Jackson Nichols and Hayden Birdsong as part of Lake Land baseball’s 2019 freshman class.
“I thought I might as well play another two years with them,” Laughhunn said.
The opportunity to join Nichols and Birdsong arose just a few weeks earlier, when Lake Land extended an offer, though Laughhunn took it upon himself to generate interest from college coaches long before. He went to showcases after his junior season, hoping to catch scouts’ eyes. Mattoon coach Jim Schmitz and Laughhunn’s American Legion coach, Stacey Birdsong, reached out to college coaches and mentioned him. They gave their assessment of Laughhunn’s abilities, which Birdsong says were evident in middle school.
“He’s been one of the best athletes in the group,” Birdsong said. “Good arm, good bat, great bat speed. Early on at 10 or 11, he was really good and I think we knew at that time he was going to mature into what we saw now.”
Initially, Laughhunn garnered offers from Wabash Valley College and St. Charles Community College and visited both.
“I was going to see where those led first,” Laughhunn said.
In the end, though, neither offered Laughhunn the familiarity and desired academic track that Lake Land could. He grew open to the idea of staying close to home. He plans to major in criminal justice and found Lake Land’s program appealing. His two teammates were already committed and his mother, Seirra, also works for the school.
Laughhunn committed to Lake Land in March, fulfilling a long-standing goal.
“I’ve always had the aspirations to play,” Laughhunn said. “But the last couple years I’ve been working my butt off to play college baseball.”
A third baseman for Mattoon, Laughhunn isn’t sure what position he will play for Lake Land yet. He played shortstop in Legion ball last summer.
“I definitely think he’s a third baseman with his athleticism,” Birdsong said. “He’s a quick-twitch kid.”