It’s October, the best time of the year in baseball. For fans, it means watching their team fight to get to the World Series. For players, it means building a legacy and making history. The regular season is now meaningless and anything can happen.
It is truly exciting, but not everybody can be a part of it. Not every team makes the postseason. Not even every player from the postseason teams gets to participate. Then there are the guys in the minors, just dying to get even just a taste of MLB action.
It is not an easy road to the MLB. Just ask pitcher David Ledbetter. The former 2013 third-round pick just finished his fifth season in the Texas Rangers’ farm system. He completed this season with the Round Rock Express, the team’s triple-A affiliate. In triple-A, he went 3-4 with a 4.31 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 110.1 innings.
Now 25 years old, Ledbetter is still hoping he can make his dream come true. He has been working for years to get to the big leagues and is now one call-up away from making the dream a reality.
Life in the minors
Ledbetter found out he’d been promoted to triple-A while on a bus ride to his next game. It surprised him at first, but it was also fulfilling to get recognition for his performance.
“I felt like all my hard work had paid off a little bit,” Ledbetter said. “It is always nice to see an advancement in whatever you do.”
Ledbetter has spent time in all levels of the farm system. He said life is basically the same in all levels of minor league baseball. With all the traveling and bus rides, you can’t really settle down in one place for too long.
“You’re pretty much homeless,” he said. “You can’t really call a single place home.”
The minor league life is a grind. You are living out of a suitcase. And if you do have an apartment, you usually don’t spend more than a few months in it. You also try to live with a lot of guys to cut rent costs and save money due to the low pay in the minor leagues.
Ledbetter is also married, and since his wife is a pharmacist, she can’t be with him all the time. Ledbetter said being away from family is tough. Why would anyone want this lifestyle?
Ledbetter said he loves the experiences you can only get from playing professional baseball.
“It is really cool because you get to meet people you never otherwise meet,” he said. “You get to experience a lot of different cultures because guys come from all over the world. That’s an experience that I would only be getting if I was in pro ball, and I’m really happy for that.”
Road to the show
In high school, Ledbetter played with his twin brother Ryan at Heritage Christian High School (Indiana), where they won back-to-back state championships. The twins went on to pitch at Cedarville University (Ohio), where they both had successful careers. Cedarville had never had a player drafted, so they went into school just looking to play the best they could and maybe bring a championship to the team.
Unfortunately, they never won that championship, but both had successful careers in college. David finished his time at Cedarville with the second lowest career ERA and second most career wins and strikeouts in school history. Ryan wasn’t bad either as he finished with the third most saves in school history and posted a 3.16 ERA.
They both ended up getting drafted as well, making them the first players in school history to do so. David, as mentioned earlier, was drafted in the third round by the Rangers in the 2013 draft. Later in the 19th round, Ryan was also drafted by the Rangers. What are the odds of that happening?
“That was totally God’s favor on that draft,” Ledbetter said. “It was unbelievable. There was definitely a little bit of nervous excitement there for a little bit though in between the rounds.”
Both of them played together in single-A for a few years. Then Ryan played double-A in 2016. He is now working in the medical field.
David moved up to double-A last year and also got the call-up to triple-A. He is still going and is glad to see his work paying off.
“It’s definitely been a ride,” he said. “I never thought I’d be where I was today. I’ve worked really hard, but it’s cool to see God’s hand through everything.”
What does it take to get to the bigs?
So what does Ledbetter need to work on to get to the big leagues? He says consistency.
Ledbetter said at all levels, there are guys who are very talented. However, the ones that stick around and play in the majors are the ones that know what they do well and do it often.
“If I’m going to make it in the big leagues, I have to make sure I’m consistent with my strengths,” he said.
It hasn’t been an easy path to get here, and he still isn’t in the majors yet. But Ledbetter is glad to be chasing his dream and is working hard to get there.
“If you don’t follow your dreams as a human, it’s going to be a sad life,” Ledbetter said. “We have all these aspirations and passions in our lives, and a lot of people just want to dumb them down and not pursue those. I really think you have those for a reason. So I’m glad I really followed mine.”
Featured image by Andy Nietupski/Round Rock Express
“From Our Haus to Yours”