I sat watching the playoffs this year very proud. No matter the outcome of the games, I was watching some my former players contribute to their team success. I've been very blessed to work with some great players in my career as a coach. And I got to see a bunch of them play during the MLB playoffs and will continue to see some of them in the World Series. Austin Nola, Austin Barnes, and J.T. Realmuto, three catchers who are caught in the playoffs for their respective teams we're all members of the 2014 Southern League Jacksonville Suns!
There are many stories that I can tell about that team. But one that really sticks out for me was how J.T. Realmuto lead our team to the championship down the stretch. He was in his second year in AA with the Marlins organization and was having a really good year. Earlier in the season he had gotten his first taste of the big leagues as the Marlins catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, went down with a concussion, and J.T. was called up for a couple weeks where he actually held his own and showed that he could perform in the big leagues. After salty came back to play, J.T. was sent back to Jacksonville and we went back to work.
The team in Jacksonville went on an epic run and won the last 10 games of the season to win the division by half a game. We then went on to beat Mobile, our division rival in the playoffs, and then swept Chattanooga to win the Southern League!
J.T. was a huge part of that run. Minor league playoffs go into September and we all knew, as well as J.T,, that he was going back to the big leagues soon as our season was over. It didn't seem to phase him one bit. He did not take one pitch off, or one at bat off, with the thought of going back to the big leagues. It was all about helping his team win every night, every pitch, every at bat. It was so fun to watch him play during that stretch, as he did not seem to pay one bit of attention to the money or MLB service time he was missing while playing in the AA playoffs.
Not only would he not come out of the lineup for an off day, he refused to even DH or come out from behind the plate. Do you want to be the guy. And I don't mean that in a bad way. He learned some valuable lessons that season, how to lead a pitching staff, how to really hit, and most importantly how to be a champion.
I'm looking forward to watching the World Series and seeing him do it all over again. Proud of you kid!