The age of 29 is young in most respects, but old in professional baseball.
Josh Pressley knows this, and knows that minor league players that age or older are no longer referred to as “prospects.”
“I don’t feel that way, but I realize also that it goes with my territory,” said the former Bangor American Legion player who is now the starting first baseman for the Somerset (Mass.) Patriots of the eight-team, independent Atlantic League.
The former Major League Baseball fourth round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998 also knows he’s not ready to give up the dream, and not willing to stop playing pro ball — affiliated or otherwise. He enjoys it too much to consider finding a ‘real job’ just yet.
“I’m kind of in between as far as the clock starting to tick a little bit at the age of 29, but at the same time, as long as I keep putting up numbers and can help someone win ballgames, it’s not really time yet to start really thinking about that,” said Pressley, the 2008 Atlantic League Player of the Year and the 1996 Legion Zone 1 Player of the Year. “I do want my shot, but I’m also at the point where if it doesn’t happen, I know this game has already given me a lot and I’m still happy.”
Through 92 games, Pressley leads the Patriots with 14 home runs, 65 RBIs, and a .506 slugging percentage, and is third on the team with a .321 batting average. Somerset already clinched a playoff spot by winning the freedom division first half title and is leading the second half as well by three games with an 19-10 record.
Four years ago, he was a hot-hitting prospect playing Double-A ball in Kansas City’s minor league system. In 2006, he was a late cut in Boston’s spring training camp and split his time between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A affiliates for St. Louis and Florida. This year, he came tantalizingly close to another shot at the Ma-jors as a free agent invitee to the Houston Astros spring training camp.
“I was in the last round of cuts before they set the roster, but it just didn’t work out. It was kind of the luck of the draw,” Pressley explained. “I batted around .315 with three homers and 10 RBIs in eight games, but they traded for Jeff Keppinger because they wanted middle infield help and that bumped out one of their good prospects to the minors who took a spot I might have had in Triple-A.”
For the last three seasons, Pressley has found a home of sorts in Somerset, Mass.
“If it’s not affiliated ball, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and this is known as the best organization in this league,” he said. “I have loyalties to the coaches and we won a championship here.”
He also won a home run hitting contest as a league All-Star pick the last two seasons. He has not only thrived for the Patriots, he has become a veteran leader and fan favorite.
“It’s a great place to come back to if you have to be in independent baseball,” said Pressley. “It’s a Triple-A atmosphere as far as how they take care of the players and treat us, and it’s a great league for older players who’ve been around awhile.”
Pressley is still getting used to that “older player” label, but it doesn’t bother him.
“I don’t feel like the older, more mature guy I am compared to younger guys,” he said. “They do ask me things, but I love it when guys pick my brain and I try to be an open book. One thing I’ve learned is in this game, you can always learn something from everybody. You never stop learning.”
Pressley recently missed eight games due to a small tendon tear in the bottom of his right foot, but is back on fulltime duty after being the designated hitter for awhile.
The Florida resident isn’t sure what the offseason will bring, let alone next season.
“I work for Hurricane Impact Glass Co. in Florida, but I’d like to play winter ball somewhere,” he said. “As far as another year, there are days when I weigh my options, and then there are others where I know I won’t be able to put a uniform back on again after I take it off.”