BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – When people think of professional athletes they think of players with big money living a glamorous lifestyle.
What most people don’t think about is what those athletes went through to reach that point.
I spoke with Rumble Ponies Braxton Lee and Mickey Jannis about the grind minor leaguers go through chasing their dream.
One word to describe the life of a Minor League Baseball player? Chaotic.
“Bouncing around going from place to place. Packing up all your stuff living out of a suitcase it’s crazy. At the same time it’s kind of cool because you get to visit all these different places and visit new teammates and meet new people. I think that’s the coolest part about it,” said outfielder Braxton Lee.
Rumble Ponies outfielder Braxton Lee just since the beginning of the 2018 season has went from playing for the Jupiter Hammerheads to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, to the New Orleans baby Cakes, then back to Florida with the Miami Marlins, then onto the Syracuse Mets before landing in Binghamton with the New York Mets Double-A affiliate Rumble Ponies.
Since being drafted in 2014 by the Tampa Bay Rays he’s played at 9 different stops.
While Lee likes to focus on the positives of all that movement, there is a clear downside to not having a place to call home.
eing Selected as an Eastern League All-Star this season provided him an opportunity he hasn’t had in a while.
“My wife is coming into town. Haven’t seen her in like two months so being able to just be able to hang out with her and just enjoy those few days at the All-Star game is what I’m looking forward to most,” he said.
While Lee’s journey across the country got him an 8 game taste of the MLB, Rumble Ponies starting pitcher Mickey Jannis hasn’t gotten that payoff.
“Unfortunately i haven’t gotten any calls up higher yet but you never know. You hear about guys older than me making their major league debut and getting an opportunity so anything is possible,” says Jannis.
A 44th round draft pick also of the Rays in 2010, Jannis, unlike Lee, has had some stability spending much of the last 5 seasons with Double-A Binghamton.
The 31-year-old has had a couple of stints in Triple-A but is yet to crack a big league roster.
While Jannis and Lee started their careers for the same organization, they’ve had vastly different paths to Binghamton.
They both agree that to make their big league dreams a reality, they need to seize the opportunities that they are presented.
“AlI can do is go out and pitch my games every 5 days or whenever my names called, make the most of it and see what happens after that,” Jannis said.
“Learning from failure helps.” Lee added. “So learning from last year like hey this is what I need to do to perform at my best ability and that’s what I’m trying to do this year.”
For players like Jannis and Lee, the end goal of making it to the major leagues makes grinding it out at stops like here in Binghamton worth it.
“That’s the Ultimate goal so whether it’s one game or ten years, it’s just getting up there and getting that opportunity.”
Where their careers will take them next is a mystery, but whatever the next step is they’ll be ready to take it.
Jannis, Lee and the rest of the Ponies are back from the All-Star break Thursday night in Portland as they take on the Sea Dogs.