SPLIT DECISIONS

Kevaughn Wilson

He knew the perseverance necessary to successfully achieve his dream of playing major-league baseball.

His workout regimens became his lifestyle. “I would get up at 5 a.m. every morning before school and drive to the nearest LA Fitness to get a workout in. Five days a week with weekends off. Then I would go to school and back to training in the evening. It was difficult but, funny enough, I loved it,” said Jade Salmon-Williams. He knew he didn’t want to be average.

The path to Major League Baseball is a difficult one. Exceptional child players must spend years toiling in neighborhood leagues, constantly striving to make it to the next level at every step to even get the chance for a shot at the big leagues. This includes years of travelling to and from games, juggling jobs and school schedules, racking up debt and risking injury.

It demands constant dedication on and off the field to compete at the highest level. The MLB hopeful must be able to put all their tribulations aside when on the field because honestly, their life depends on it.

Salmon-Williams’ is from Brampton Ontario and in the middle of chasing his dream. “As a kid, my goal was to play Major League Baseball that’s all I wanted to do and have been doing for 17 years.”

Salmon-Williams’s father Otis Williams always saw potential in the young outfielder. “Baseball is his life. Growing up, his favorite player was Josh Hamilton on the Texas Rangers and he just wanted to be like him. He would always tell me when he grew up, he would be like Josh,” he said.

Salmon-Williams was drafted in 2015 by the Cincinnati Reds minor league baseball team and was excited to get his dream on the way however, he soon learned, the minor leagues are more difficult than he expected.

Jade describes the minors as mentally and physically challenging, “It’s a struggle to say the least. From staying in tough hotels and getting anything you can manage to find to eat at the local gas station. Then you have to go out every day and play under those conditions, it almost becomes normal.”

Not to mention the pay is less than minimum wage.

Most minor league baseball players have to resort to part-time jobs during the off- season as a result of their low pay grade.

Former San Diego Padres pitcher, Dirk Hayhurst told Bleacher Report that it’s even more difficult for overseas players, “I was a white, American-born male. When my minor league season was over, I worked two, sometimes three, jobs while sleeping on someone’s floor. I lived next to a school that let me work out in their gym for free because I couldn’t afford a gym membership. I had parents who could mortgage their house to help me, if necessary.”

Hayhurst is one of the lucky ones to have such a strong support system. Players from other countries have to adapt quickly to the American way. Latin-American players have to learn English as fast as possible under tough conditions. Overseas players must spend nearly three-quarters of the year away from friends and family, sometimes in extremely challenging conditions.

Former Blue Jays minor league player Blake McFarland, 31, says to MLB Daily that the major League hopeful faces challenges on a daily basis. “It is a long season with only one off-day an entire month. I don’t think there are any other jobs in the entire world with only one off-day per month.

Add that with long, overnight bus rides every week, nagging injuries and little sleep, and that is going to be one long season and grind,” McFarland said.

But McFarland reassures the hopefuls that though the grind is tough, you won’t be going through it alone. “It will also leave you with stories to tell, new friends and the ride of a lifetime,” he said.

Minor League Baseball is for the strong- willed, the ones who believe in themselves and their potential. There will always be that voice of doubt in a player’s head, but the destination is that much sweeter with a rocky journey.

Salmon-Williams continues to chase his dreams to make it to the majors against all odds. He remains the motivated player he has always been.

Salmon-Williams’ high school baseball teammate Kwesi Schmidt says Jade was unlike anyone he has ever played with before. “His game was way ahead of ours,” he said. “Even though he couldn’t play sometimes because his team practice and games conflicted, it seemed he was more invested than most of our players.

He just loved winning,” Salmon Williams’ motivation combined with his love for the game continues to fuel his dream.

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