Minor Disruption: Dodgers’ slugging prospect Brandon Lewis connects with old friends
Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series of stories about how the coronavirus shutdown has affected minor league baseball players.
Dodgers prospect Brandon Lewis has reconnected with old friends while trying to confront an uncertain future.
Since spring training was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 fourth-round pick has been scrambling to find ways to practice. He started by ordering a tee and a net off Amazon and taking swings in the garage of his dad’s Porter Ranch townhouse.
He formed a training group with other minor leaguers, using the Chatsworth Sierra Canyon School’s diamond for light training until the school’s owners shut them down.
He then returned to places of his past, going back to his high school, junior college and even little league fields for his workouts. At each spot, he reunited with old coaches and teammates while awaiting the fate of this summer’s minor league season, which was officially canceled Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of wondering going on,” Lewis said. “That’s the consensus.”
The trip down memory lane has eased that burden, a reminder that the last time he saw many of these people, his professional baseball dreams were far from coming true.
The MLB season is three months late and filled with uncertainty. The surroundings will be unusual, the schedule strange, the rhythms remodeled. Let’s ‘play ball.’
During his career at Bishop Alemany High, the infielder was a two-time all-league selection and hit .366 as a senior. He went on to Pierce College, twice earning all-conference honors while hitting above .400 in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
But it wasn’t until Lewis transferred to UC Irvine as a junior, where he hit .315 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in 2019, that his draft stock was solidified. And after being snagged by the Dodgers last summer, he went on to hit .297 in 56 minor league games.
Returning to his old stamping grounds has allowed him to relive that journey and reflect on the hard work and good fortune that have gotten him this far.
“It was cool,” he said, going back and seeing former coaches and teammates. “We caught up a little bit. A lot of guys I played with are also trying to stay in shape, so we get together and get everyone regrouped and catch up with each other.”
It’s also helping him through this pandemic-ravaged season, which was supposed to be his first full professional campaign.
Lewis isn’t fretting over lost development time, partially because he’s confident he will be able to make up lost ground whenever minor league baseball returns, but also because this year’s shortened draft will force every club to focus more on players already in their systems.
Dodger Stadium was supposed to host the 2020 MLB All-Star game before the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the season. Will it be played in 2022?
“I think the playing field will be evened out once everything comes back,” he said.
He feels fortunate that he still has signing-bonus money to lean on and that he plays for a Dodgers organization that has paid its minor leaguers stipends through August.
He’s been finding other ways to challenge himself too with at-home workouts crafted by the Dodgers’ strength staff as well as a newfound infatuation with golf. He’s purchased a set of used TaylorMade irons and makes nightly treks to a nearby driving range.
“If you took a survey throughout the league, I think golf would be the biggest hobby out of baseball players,” Lewis said. “I hate sucking at things, and I know if I ever went out, I would just embarrass myself. So I’ve been dedicated to getting myself decent.”
His impression of the sport so far?
“It’s been relaxing — but also frustrating.”
Lewis could describe his entire summer the same way, enjoying moments with old friends while trying to cope with circumstances out of his control.
“I’m hopeful there will be some type of organized baseball in the fall or winter,” he said. “That’s what I’m aiming for. Staying in shape. Being ready to go around that time.”
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