- Last Updated on 12:22 PM 04/23/12
- BY Joe Chandler
Jeremy Jeffress understands the seriousness of his situation.
The South Boston native has had a life-long dream to play Major League Baseball. After having failed three drug tests and now facing baseball’s version of the death penalty, Jeffress is down to his last chance to make his dream become a reality.
The 22-year-old former Halifax County High School star hurler says he intends to make the most of this final opportunity.
Back in the fall, Jeffress entered a substance abuse program in Milwaukee. Since that time, he has been walking the proverbial straight and narrow line in his attempt to get his baseball career back on track.
“I’m making a lot of progress,” Jeffress said.
“I’ve been in counseling. I’ve had people giving me advice every day. I’m just getting things done, trying to keep stepping forward, trying to keep going.”
Jeffress has ridden a bumpy road as a result of his inability to conquer his urge to smoke marijuana. In late June, Jeffress was tagged with a 100-game suspension for testing positive for “a drug of abuse,” putting him one offense away from a lifetime ban from baseball.
That was the third time that the rifle-armed right-handed pitcher had tested positive under the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
His first offense resulted in mandated counseling and education. While pitching for Class A West Virginia, Jeffress tested positive again, that time drawing a 50-game suspension. Then, in late-June, Jeffress failed another test, putting him at a point where his baseball career was placed in jeopardy.
With his baseball career hanging in the balance, Jeffress made the decision to enter a drug rehabilitation program in Milwaukee.
“It wasn’t a big decision to make,” Jeffress said of the decision to enter the drug rehabilitation program.
“I knew I had a problem. I knew I wanted to face it head-on. Whatever they had at that place that they had for me to do, I was going to do it because baseball is my life, and that’s what I had to do.”
Jeffress said the program opened his eyes and his mind to a lot of things.
“I’m a lot better person for myself, not only for myself, but for my family,” Jeffress said.
“I’ve changed my life over to doing things that benefit me and not worrying about all that other stuff just to be happy.”
Jeffress says he is truly sincere about his efforts to get his baseball career and his life back on the right track.
“I was fooling myself,” Jeffress said of the past.
“I wasn’t telling the truth to my own self. Basically, I didn’t really want to try to change what I was doing.
“You can’t soar like an eagle walking with turkeys,” added Jeffress.
“That’s an old saying my dad used to say. When I got caught the first time, it hurt. When I got caught the second time, it was my fault. I should have learned my lesson. Now that I’ve been caught for the second time, I understand that this (baseball) is my lifelong dream. This is what I want to do in life. This is what I love to do.”
Major League Baseball
Jeffress says his intent is to don a Major League uniform for the Milwaukee Brewers by the end of the 2010 season. That could happen for Jeffress if he stays on the right path, particularly with the Brewers searching for quality pitchers and looking for a return on the million-dollar-plus signing bonus they gave Jeffress when he signed with the club in 2006.
The path to the top level will, however, have to be taken one step at a time.
Jeffress said he is scheduled to report to Phoenix, Ariz. on Jan. 16 to begin workouts.
“When I get out to Phoenix in January, we (the Milwaukee Brewers) have a camp called our winter program,” Jeffress explained.
“They get certain guys to come out there to get ready for spring training in March. I’ll be out there for about two months training and working out until spring training begins.”
Jeffress says he will likely to return to the Milwaukee Brewers’ low Class A affiliate team the Brevard County (Fla.) Manatees after spring training.
“I’ll probably get five or six starts in Brevard and then move back to (class) AA in Huntsville, Ala.,” noted Jeffress.
The 2010 season is an important season for Jeffress, the 16th player taken in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft.
“This coming season is my 40-man year,” Jeffress pointed out.
“That’s the year in which I have to be on the (Milwaukee Brewers’) 40-man roster, or I can be traded. They (the Milwaukee Brewers) don’t want to trade me, so I will probably be on the 40-man roster at the end of the season.”
Jeffress works out every day, even when he comes back to South Boston for visits with his family, preparing himself to face the challenges of the 2010 season.
“I throw every day and take weekends off,” Jeffress said.
“I’m pitching pretty well. I’ve got more command of my fastball. I have more command of my secondary pitches. The curve ball is in my back pocket, and I’m ready to pull it out whenever I need it. I’m trying to fine-tune it as much as I can.”
Jeffress also is working on his change-up and has just developed a pitch he calls his “two-seamer,” a pitch that resembles a breaking fastball. That gives Jeffress four pitches in his arsenal.
The hard-throwing right-hander, a pitcher noted for his 100-plus mph fastball, thinks the Brewers still have regard for him as a potential starting pitcher.
“I’m really open to being whatever they need me to be,” he pointed out.
“They (Milwaukee Brewers officials) have always told me I would probably be a starter. I have a strong enough arm to make it through seven innings. Because of that, they will probably keep me as a starter.”
Advice For Young People
While Jeffress is looking to get his baseball career back on track, he has some advice for young people – advice that has come from learning some valuable life lessons.
“The advice I have for young people is that the company you keep is very important,” Jeffress said.
“You’ve got to have goals. You have to set short-term goals and long-term goals, goals that you want to achieve right now and goals that will benefit you in the future.
“You have to set goals and keep the right crowd around you,” Jeffress continued.
“Your crowd will bring you down. You can bring yourself down, but if you keep a lot of people around you that are not walking on the right path that you are, they’re going to bring you down.
“Nobody says you can’t have fun,” he concluded, “but have fun in the right way.”