ROYAL — Jesse Remington has no Plan B if a pro baseball career doesn’t work out. He doesn’t want one.
Remington’s dream is to pitch in the Major Leagues.
“If you have a Plan B, it’s much easier to fall back on it,” the rural Gifford native said. “I will just see what opportunities I have and keep my head down, stay focused, and hopefully it will happen tomorrow.”
If nothing else, baseball has given Remington a chance to see a part of the world he likely wouldn’t have otherwise. That includes Australia, where kangaroos are far more plentiful than baseball players.
“I went out there to do (several) things: 1) play baseball, 2) to get prepared for the (next independent) season and 3) to see the sights,” he said.
Baseball is not a popular sport in Australia. Still, the lefty rolled to a 15-0 record on the mound, and his team won the league championship.
“People who knew baseball were fanatics about it,” he said.
One of the favorite aspects of his Aussie trip was to see the differences between his native U.S. and that country. He took two weeks to see some of the country, where the natives drive on the left side of the road, even walk on the left side of a store aisle.
The seasons are reversed in the two countries. When it’s winter in the U.S., it’s summer in Australia. He made the trip down under in 2018.
“Waking up to blue skies and 65 degrees,” he said, “the weather was amazing every single day out there for the most part.”
Remington said he met many “great people” — much like you find in the Midwest.
“In Gifford you drive down the street and wave to each other if you know who they are or not. Generally, people are kind and say, ‘Hi’ in Australia.”
Remington traveled the Great Ocean Road that winds along the southern border close to Melbourne, and tried his hand at surfing. He wasn’t a natural.
“I fell off a lot.”
He did a lot of hiking and saw some “crazy waterfalls” and koala bears, went golfing a couple of times. On one golf course he saw a kangaroo (“they were everywhere, even in the city,” he said) that was as tall as his shoulders.
But baseball didn’t pay the bills. Like his other pitching stops, he also had to work an outside job. In Australia, it was primarily landscaping work. This year, Remington is working for Trav’s Automotive in Gifford.
“Anything but the majors doesn’t make you much money,” he said.
Remington had hoped to play for the Frontier League’s Southern Illinois Miners this summer, but their season was canceled due to COVID-19. He returned to his roots and pitched this season for the Royal Giants of the Eastern Illinois Baseball League. Remington won the Virgil Scheiwe Award as the league’s top pitcher. The 2011 Rantoul High grad has pitched for Royal for about six seasons.
“This year he was a very key part of us making that undefeated run and winning the regular season,” his Giants coach, Tim Dillman, said.
One highlight was no-hitting the Paxton Swedes. Remington had 30 strikeouts in 16 innings for the season.
Dillman brought Remington out of the bullpen to finish off Buckley in the second game of the E.I. postseason tournament championship round Sunday. Royal went on to sweep the Dutchmasters to finish the season undfeated.
Out of high school, the skinny kid studied and pitched at Parkland College for two years (although he was initially cut before eventually making the team by hitting the weights). After Parkland, he transferred to Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., where he underwent elbow surgery to remove a small bone spur. Remington then switched to Benedictine University in Springfield, Mo., which closed the following year.
From there, he transferred to William Woods University, an NAIA school in Fulton, Mo.
It’s tough to tell Remington he can’t do something. He has a fixed goal of being a pitcher, and hard work has helped him get better and keep his dream alive.
After college, Remington looked elsewhere for pitching opportunities.
“I had to be told I wasn’t good enough” before he would quit playing.
After failing a tryout with the Miners, he hooked up with a traveling team.
He’s been everywhere pitching a baseball, including Minnesota, California, New Mexico Texas, North Dakota, Florida, back to southern Illinois and Gary, Ind.
“When I graduated college I had no idea how extensive independent baseball is,” Remington said. “It’s similar to the (minor leagues) as far as the top leagues. Very competitive. The facilities are usually pretty nice, (although) some of it’s pretty rough. Some leagues you have to drive yourself, and living quarters can be less than luxurious.”
Remington, who is 27, continues to learn the art of pitching.
“A lot of times, I feel the battle to be against myself. If I hit an inside fastball, it might be a strike on paper, but I didn’t hit my spot. I just perform the best I can and perform with intensity.”
Remington said the goal is to get ahead of the count on every batter and “throw every pitch with a purpose.”
“Pitching, you have to be deceptive and also throw strikes,” he said. “I’ve learned throwing strikes is pretty much the most important thing about pitching. Pitching is an art. Mechanically, I’ve learned it has a lot to do with your legs and your range of motion.”
Remington said he has learned a lot about hip rotation “verus more of a linear movement, which kind of changed my perspective a little bit on how to pitch” — something he learned last season.
In his career, Remington has thrown 92 mph. Last season he was hitting 86 to 89 mph on his fastball.
Remington continues to chase the dream. He said if a pro career doesn’t pan out, it’s still been worth it.
He will now head down to Lexington, Ky., to play in the Battle of Bourbon Trail with the Florence Y’alls against players who are from or attended college in Kentucky. It’s a showcase opportunity as 20 players who have played in the event in the past were drafted or signed by Major League Baseball teams.