PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Every pro athlete has a journey that gets them to where they are today.
Most are pretty straight forward and others are…not.
The ride so far for Jace Vines would definitely fall into the latter category.
Vines is a right-handed pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization who is pitching these days with the Single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks down in Delaware. In five starts with the Blue Rocks, he is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. This followed 19 appearances at Low-A Lexington where he went 9-5 with a 3.42 ERA.
“It took me a couple of starts to get settled in (at Wilmington),” Vines recently told KYW Newsradio. “But now that I’ve kind of worked with Charlie (Corbell) the pitching coach and kind of tweaked some mechanical things I needed to change coming from Lexington, I think I’ve really settled in and just found my groove.”
Vines is one of the top prospects in the Royals organization. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 out of Texas A&M, but that’s only telling part of the story.
Vines, who turns 23 in September, grew up in Texas and went to Propser High School, where he played baseball. He played the field and pitched, but didn’t have a ton of innings under his belt. As a result, he says he really didn’t have any offers to play at the college level.
“I had a pitching instructor by the name of Jason Jennings, he played for the Rangers and the Rockies for awhile, he’s a great guy,” Vines says. “His cousin was the new assistant at Weatherford (Junior) College (in Texas). So his cousin, his name’s Bryce Cummings, asked one day (Jennings) if he had any pitchers that hadn’t signed. Being me, I knew that pitching was probably going to be the route because I was not a good hitter. So I went to a tryout and they said I could walk-on.”
He red-shirted that season with Weatherford and since he wasn’t playing, he spent the season . . . serving as the team’s public address announcer.
“Just announcing the hitters for each team and the pregame stuff,” Vines remembers. “Nothing big, but just the basics.
“I thought it was fun,” he continues. “I was more nervous, because at that point you’re not really established with the team. You’re on the team but you’re not with the team. I was trying not to mess up the whole time, honestly.”
Vines says a key that year at Weatherford was a bit of a growth spurt and then the next year when he got on the field at Tyler Junior College, also in Texas, a mechanical adjustment really helped him.
“Dropping my arm slot a little bit and focusing on the sinker,” he says.
He went 10-1 at Tyler and that caught the attention of big-time Division I programs. First he committed to Baylor, but after a change in the coaching staff there, he decided to go to Texas A&M and went 6-1 for the Aggies. The Royals liked what they saw and drafted him in 2016.
Vines has moved steadily up the ladder since getting drafted and he says his faith is a big reason why he’s gotten this far.
“For me, it’s just trusting in the Lord,” he says. “He has His hands on my journey and on me.”
And he realizes just how special this journey has already been.
“It is improbable,” he says. “I think that’s what makes me lean on God even more and praise Him through that. Because you’re not going to do this on your own. There is no way I would’ve done any of this and gone to the exact points in my life where I needed to go and the different schools and coaches that came along. It has to be a God thing, because it’s not me.”
Vines and the Blue Rocks open a series in Frederick on Tuesday night.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleonkyw.