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The Journal Gazette

  • Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette Ex-Norwell and TinCaps player Josh VanMeter now plays for Triple-A Louisville.

  • Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette VanMeter’s ability to play all over the field could eventually lead to call from the major leagues.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018 1:00 am

MLB dream close for VanMeter

Former Norwell star playing for Triple-A Louisville

GREG JONES | The Journal Gazette

TOLEDO – Playing with the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, Josh VanMeter has reached a level of professional baseball that can bring a sense of accomplishment.

But the former Norwell standout is far from satisfied.

“It's obviously exciting to be here, but you don't want to be happy to just be here,” he said on a hot Friday last month after batting practice before a game against the Toledo Mud Hens. “When you get complacent, things start to go wrong.

“Being up here was obviously a goal of mine, but it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues. I am just going to come every day, keep putting in the work and whatever happens, happens.”

He is in his sixth season in the minor leagues. After leading Norwell to the Class 3A state championship, the infielder/outfielder was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the San Diego Padres and has played for six minor league teams – including a two-year stint with the TinCaps.

This season, he played 30 games with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos before earning a promotion to Louisville in May. He was hitting .284 with a .420 on-base percentage for the Blue Wahoos.

In 44 games with the Bats, VanMeter is hitting .209 with four home runs, 14 RBI, 13 runs scored and a .626 OPS.

“Obviously you envision yourself playing in the big leagues,” the 5-foot-11, 165-pound VanMeter said. “It's going to take awhile for you to get to the big leagues. Starting as an 18-year-old in the minor leagues and being here at 23, I am pretty fortunate. It's been pretty quick moving up to Triple-A, but I think I have proven myself every step of the way.”

VanMeter, who has mainly played infield in his amateur and early professional career, has proven to be versatile at second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field.

“Just coming in every day and wherever I am playing that day, getting work in BP (batting practice) and being ready for anything, really,” VanMeter said. “You can switch positions during games. It is really having a focused mindset and not taking anything for granted.”

He said the key to getting the call to the majors is consistency.

“I am still getting better with all the positions I play defensively, and at the plate, just being more consistent is the biggest thing,” he said. “That's what I need to do to get to the next level.”

While the major leagues bring glamour, the minors have something else – the grind – something that is often lost on the casual baseball fan.

“One, you're not making a whole lot of money,” VanMeter said. “Everybody thinks I make millions and millions of dollars, which is just not true. Then there are the long bus rides. You fly a little bit, but you are not taking chartered flights.”

 VanMeter spent his first four seasons in the Padres organization before a 2016 trade sent him to the Reds farm system.

“It's an adjustment,” VanMeter said of the trade. “On one end of the spectrum, you are (thinking),'Man, what did I do wrong to not stay in that organization?' On the other end, someone noticed something about your game that they wanted you for a reason. It was definitely a good thing, looking back on it.

“But at this point, you are still playing for 29 other teams. There are scouts in the stands every night. You aren't just playing for one organization, you are playing for all 30 teams. That's something you have to keep in the back of your mind. You just have to come here every day and play with a chip on your shoulder.”

Barring another trade, there is a possibility VanMeter will make his major league debut in Cincinnati or the Midwest instead of San Diego or the West Coast.

“Obviously being close to home would be cool, but playing on any big league team would be a dream come true,” VanMeter said.

And after playing on teams in California, Texas and Florida, VanMeter now gets to play in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Family and friends get a better opportunity to see him play, while he gets to see plenty of familiar faces at home and, especially, road games.

“It's great to be close to home any time I can,” VanMeter said. “I was spoiled being in Fort Wayne. The last two or three years, I have been pretty far away. So going from seeing (family and friends) only a couple times a summer to now pretty much seeing them when you go to Toledo or Indianapolis or even Louisville ... I have been very fortunate to see them as much as I do.”

gjones@jg.net