His dream of playing Major League Baseball is as vivid today as ever. His lifelong passion for the game has not waned. And at age 27, after stringing together five highly productive seasons in the independent Can-Am League, Jerod Edmondson is still hopeful that a big-league team will take notice.
“I still feel like I’m producing at a high level,’’ said the Hingham resident, a fleet-footed outfielder who will suit up for the Worcester Tornadoes in 2012.
“I’m competitive. It’s hard for me to feel like I don’t have the chance. I think, skill-wise, I have an opportunity. I just need to get into an organization somewhere where somebody will give me a shot.’’
After playing collegiately at Saint Anselm and then the University of Massachusetts Lowell (as a grad student), the Johnson City, N.Y., native latched on with the Nashua Pride in 2007 and has been playing Can-Am ball ever since, mixing in a little part-time coaching along the way.
How much longer will he pursue his dream if he receives no offers? How long can he endure the long bus rides, low wages (the average pay in the Can-Am is $1,500 per month), and pregame buffets of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches?
“It’s hard to say,’’ said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Edmondson, who bats from the left side and throws from the right.
“When you’re competing and feel you’re doing well in your league and you’re putting up good numbers, you still feel you can play somewhere.
“When it’s something you’ve worked your whole life at,’’ he added, “it’s hard to say, ‘I’m going to be done because I’m too old.’ There’s a part of you that still believes there’s a spot for you somewhere, that you can help somebody out.’’
About 10 Can-Am League players per season have their contracts bought out by major league organizations. Craig Breslow, Kevin Millar, and Daniel Nava all started their path to the majors playing independent league ball before playing for the Red Sox.
In his five pro seasons, through 404 games and 1,456 at-bats, Edmondson has a .293 batting average with 43 home runs, 200 RBI, 73 stolen bases, and a slick .988 fielding percentage (only 19 errors in 1,529 chances).
Last season, when he found a home playing center field for the Pittsfield Colonials, he hit .315, had a .548 slugging percentage, registered career highs in home runs (17) and RBIs (61), and tied his high in steals (23).
When the Pittsfield franchise ceased operations, Edmondson was selected in the dispersal draft by the Tornadoes, who will open their 100-game schedule on May 17 and play their home games at Holy Cross.
Jorg Bassiacos, the Tornadoes’ executive vice president and general manager, believes Edmondson has a shot at a big-league career.
“Jerod is a five-tool player,’’ said Bassiacos. “He has a great opportunity to show his wares in Worcester. We do get scouts attending our games on a consistent basis. We do have [an informal] relationship with affiliates of baseball. I think it would give him every opportunity to prove himself and hopefully take the next step in his career.
“Seeing him on an opposing team time after time, we just really like the style of play he brings. I think he’ll be a great fit. I know our guys on the team are excited that we’re able to bring him on board this season.’’
So Edmondson remains driven to seeing his name penciled in on a big-league lineup card.
“I’ve put all my time into it,’’ said Edmondson, who is working during the offseason at the South Shore Athletic Club in Cohasset. “You give up a lot of things. You make a lot of sacrifices. Once you’re 100 percent focused and you see the results, you feel like you can do that at the next level, too.’’
He has the full backing of his wife of two months, the former Haley Wojtasinski, who teaches Spanish at the South Shore Charter School in Norwell. A former softball player at Hingham High and Saint Anselm, where the two met, she understands his commitment to baseball.
So, too, does his 23-year-old brother, Chris, who is entering his third season as a corner outfielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization after setting school records for home runs (44), RBIs (178), triples (10), and games played (197) at Le Moyne College. Their younger sister, 21-year-old Morgan, is a senior catcher on the softball team at the Division 2 school in Syracuse. Another sibling, 25-year-old Ryan, will be in Florida this spring, training to be a professional umpire.
“I know how important [the game] is to him,’’ said Haley, “and as long as he feels he can play, he should play. I know he can still play, and I’ll try to be there for him. We’re doing well. We’re getting by. It hasn’t come to the point where he needs to stop.
“I enjoy the summer, being a teacher, and I love baseball. This was our eighth summer together, and I go to as many as games as I can.’’
Edmondson said that the daily routine is tougher on Haley than on him.
“I’m out at the park early, play every day, come home at 11 at night, and do it all over again the next day,’’ he said. “But she knows what I’m trying to do. She believes in me.’’
Perhaps the best dream is one you can share.