Throughout the remainder of the spring and summer, we will have a feature, looking at Minor League baseball talent across the country from the Sunshine State.
This FREE feature will track talent who starred on high school baseball fields from Key West to Pensacola, and keep an eye on their progressive in towns and cities across the country.
We hope that this feature will help you rediscover the athletes you lost track of as they make a push toward the big leagues.
TODAY: Josh Pressley
MAJOR LEAGUE AFFILIATE: KANSAS CITY ROYALS
CURRENT TEAM: WICHITA WRANGLERS
LEAGUE: TEXAS LEAGUE
POSITION: First base/DH/Outfield
HOMETOWN: Fort Lauderdale
HIGH SCHOOL: Westminster Academy
At the age of 25, Josh Pressley figured that by now, he would be on some major league roster. Instead, the one time Westminster Academy baseball/basketball standout is playing for his third organization and still riding buses in Texas League.
Competing for the Wichita Wranglers, the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, Pressley has had plenty of time to ponder his career, and no matter which way he looks at it, he still loves what he's doing.
"The alternative is not something that I am ready to deal with," said Pressley. "Baseball has changed so much over the past decade, and no matter if you are at the A, AA or AAA level, you are but a phone call away from the big leagues."
A fourth round selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays back in 1998, this 132nd overall pick didn't disappoint in his first three seasons. He hit over .300 at the rookie level, and then put two solid years together at the Class-A level with 16 homers, 121 RBI in over 900 plate appearances and 250 games.
Just as the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder started to climb the ladder as a first baseman/outfielder, advancing to Double-A Orlando, he broke his wrist some 16 games into the 2001 season. For the first time in his young life, Pressley watched from the sideline.
As he remained out for the entire year, he realized that the off season would be crucial. He needed to make up for the lost time he spent away from playing. He returned home determined to work harder than ever.
The off seasons have always been filled with plenty of excitement for Pressley. It was a time when he would combine his two passions together. In the morning, he would work on his baseball, and then in the afternoons and into the evenings, he would assist his father, Buddy, one of the premier coaches in Florida, on the basketball court.
"Basketball was a release for me," said Pressley. "I had the chance to work hard to regain my form on the baseball field and stay in shape by playing and teaching basketball."
Buddy Pressley is currently coaching at Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons.
When returned to the baseball field for the 2002 season, Pressley was determined to put his career back on track. He hit .304 at Orlando in 93 games and then advanced to AAA Durham for the final 16 games.
As his career got back to where he wanted it, the Devil Rays started to go through some changes, and when Lou Piniella was hired in Tampa Bay, changes were made. One of those changes was to bring some veteran players into the organization, and with very few quality minor leaguers to use as trade bait, Pressley's name came up to lure a quality veteran like Rey Ordonez.
"That's where you find out that baseball is a business," said Pressley. "You never figure that you would be traded that early in your career, but you learn to accept it and move on."
What was tough for Pressley to accept was the following year, when he broke from spring training with the New York Mets' AAA team, he suddenly found himself in a position that he never expected.
The Mets started him in the Florida State League with Port St. Lucie. While it was nice for his family to see him closer to home, the thought of starting over again at the Class-A level was not appealing, but Pressley remained optimistic as he would spilt time between Port St. Lucie, AA Binghamton and AAA Norfolk.
"The organization actually had a Triple-A first baseman at every level," said Pressley. "I was caught in tough situation, but was still happy to be playing professional baseball."
Last year became one of the most important his career. Pressley was sent to Double-A in his final year of his contract. If he was going to stay with the Mets, he knew that it would be a tough climb, especially with Mike Piazza moving to first and the organization lookin to groom Jason Phillips for the position as well.
In a full season at Binghamton, Pressley hit .300 and drove in 62 runs. At the age of 24, it was his turn to look for the best way to make it to a major league roster.
"It was really clear that the Mets had their own agenda," Pressley said. "They treated me very well, but the opportunity to move on to the Kansas City Royals seemed to be my best option."
Even though he did well during the spring, Pressley found himself back in AA, but this time he had more hope. He was given a AAA contract, and was paired with players who had been on major league rosters and were headed back again.
When teammate Leo Nunez was promoted to Kansas City on May 7, it proved Pressley right. The phone call can come at any time, and he has watched it happen for several teammates.
"I'm right there," he said. "I have gotten off to a good start and my attitude is great. I still love what I'm doing."
In the first six weeks of the season, Pressley was hitting over .300, driving in runs and showing power.
If you have a player who is in the minor leagues this summer from the state of Florida, please let us know at www.floridakids.us. Just e-mail me at FloridaKids1@hotmail.com.
Keeping an eye on more Floridians. Check this feature out as well:
JEFF MATHIS - MARIANNA
PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE WICHITA WRANGLERS BASEBALL CLUB.
MAKING A SOLID IMPACT: Josh Pressley
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