Catch & Release

By IAN WILSON

Watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series was a bit of an odd situation for Calgarian Jordan Procyshen. The 25-year-old catcher, a graduate of the Dawgs Academy in Okotoks, was released by the Red Sox on Aug. 2nd after a five-year journey through Boston’s minor-league system.

On the one hand, there was the joy of watching friends and former teammates win baseball’s ultimate prize. On the other hand, Procyshen was counting down the innings until he would officially enter free agency and leave the only Major League Baseball (MLB) organization he had ever known.

In his time in the Red Sox system, the 14th-round selection in 2014 traveled from Greenville, South Carolina to Lowell, Massachusetts to Salem, Virginia to Portland, Maine. He played Single-A and Double-A baseball in the South Atlantic League, the New York-Pennsylvania League, the Carolina League and the Eastern League.

Procyshen saw plenty of teammates come and go during that time, including players he watched excel during this MLB postseason. But despite his release in August, the Northern Kentucky University alumnus had to wait until Red Sox ace Chris Sale struck out Dodger villain Manny Machado for his split from the team to be complete.

We caught up with Procyshen at his recent catching clinic at Duvernay Fieldhouse in Okotoks to discuss the World Series champs, Red Sox Nation and what’s next for a player who has only known one MLB organization. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Tell me about your release from the Boston Red Sox organization. Was that something you saw coming?

A: I kind of saw it coming. It was a tough year. I battled back from some injuries at the start of the season and then I wasn’t playing much. It was a mutual agreement between the Red Sox and myself. It just wasn’t the right fit. There was no future for me left with the Red Sox and it made more sense for myself to be able to come home, see my family, see my friends and then hopefully try to get a new start with a different organization.

LISTEN BELOW: You can find Procyshen’s chat with Ian about midway through Episode 4 of Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.

Q: What’s next for you and your baseball career?

A: I had to wait for the World Series to end to be able to get picked up as a free agent. I’m just in talks with my agent. He said the biggest thing is to let teams know that I’m still looking to continue my career. I’m waiting to hear back from him, I’m going to continue to talk to him and see if we can get some teams to pick up my contract and go from there.

Q: Is that a nerve-wracking position to be in? This is the first time you’ve been in this position.

A: Yeah, ever since the Red Sox drafted me in 2014 I’ve been under contract to them and this is my fifth season with them so this is all brand new. It’s a lot of unknown and in baseball, there’s a lot of unknown as it is but there’s even more right now. A lot of it’s the waiting game and just trying to figure out what’s best for myself and my life.

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Photo of Jordan Procyshen on display at Duvernay Fieldhouse in Okotoks

Q: You are committed to continuing to play professional baseball though, right?

A: I am. It has to be the right situation but if a situation comes along where I’m in a position to continue to play professional baseball, I’m going to take it. It’s going to be very interesting this off-season to be going through an entire off-season without a contract.

Q: So, you’re release occurred in August and then the World Series comes around and the Red Sox are in it, what’s that like? Were you watching the postseason? Were you cheering for the Red Sox?

A: I definitely watched the entire playoffs … I definitely was still cheering for the Red Sox. A couple of the guys up there were my teammates throughout the years. I played with (third baseman Rafael) Devers for four years. I played and roomed with (pitcher Ryan) Brasier, so I know a lot of those guys pretty well. So, it’s really cool to be able to see them experience that and be able to achieve the ultimate goal in baseball.

Q: Tell me a bit more about Devers. He’s one of your more notable former teammates. What was your experience like with him?

A: He’s the ultimate clubhouse guy, in that he’s going to keep everybody happy. Our nickname for him was ‘El Baby’ because he looks like an absolute kid, he’s got the baby face. He’s always running around with a smile on his face, he’s always laughing. I remember hearing about him my very first season. They were talking about this 16-year-old kid from the Dominican who absolutely rakes, he hits home runs and plays unbelievable defence. The first time I saw him, I was like, ‘Wow, this kid is legit.’

One thing I’ll never forget is spring training of 2017 we were both in big league camp together and at big league camp you have to be smart in the clubhouse. You don’t want to step on anybody’s toes, so I went up to Devers and I said, ‘Hey man, when are you going to make it to the big leagues?’ He says, ‘Papi, papi, this year I leave.’ Sure enough, I started the year in Double-A with him and that year he leaves and has been a contributor ever since.

Q: You played briefly with outfielder Andrew Benintendi in Salem, as well. What was he like to play with?

A: I got to know Benny a little bit. I played with him at the start of the season in 2016, the year he made it to the big leagues. I didn’t get to share the field with him as much as I would’ve liked. He’s another good clubhouse guy. He keeps to himself a little bit more but he’s another really good player.

He’s another guy that just opens up your eyes. There’s something different about him. I wish I could’ve got to know him a little bit better.

Q: How well did you get to know the catching staff of the Red Sox?

A: I got to know the catching staff really well, with Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart. They all have their different styles of catching, but one thing that they really preach in the organization is that you know everybody is battling everybody else for that top spot but at the same time, we’re one unit. That’s what I bring here with these guys. They’re willing to help each other out, so if Sandy sees something with my stance or with my glove he was always willing to help me out. They’re all really good guys in that aspect. And they’re competitors. They want to be the best in themselves and they want you to be just as good so you can push them. Even if I am some minor league guy, they don’t care because they know they were in my footsteps at one point.

Q: How about the pitchers you played with – did any of them make an impression during this postseason?

A: I roomed this year with Ryan Brasier. He’s a really cool story. He signed with us, I think on March 3rd with a minor-league deal and no opt-out clause, which is really tough. And sure enough he was in Triple-A, he was throwing unbelievable and found himself on a World Series roster, making an impact in high leverage innings. He’s a really good guy and it’s fun to see that.

As a fan, people only see the baseball aspect of it. They see that he’s really good at this or he’s really good at that, whereas when you get to know them on a personal level it’s, yeah, he’s really good at baseball but he’s really nice off the field, he’s a family man, this or that. So having those ties to each of those players is really cool.

Q: Was it intimidating when you looked at the catching depth the Red Sox had?

A: It’s intimidating if you allow it to be. It’s very easy to get caught up in that. It’s very easy to get caught up in the depth charts … but one thing that I also really like is that they preach, hey, it’s one unit. If you want to get better the guy next to you has to get better to push you to be better. You can’t look to far ahead, you have to focus on where you’re at.

Q: Tell me about being a part of Red Sox Nation. Did that passion that fans have at the major-league level trickle down to the minor leagues?

A: The Red Sox Nation is unbelievable. They’re all over the place. I’ll never forget my host family that I lived with in Portland, Maine – THE biggest New England fans in the world. The first day I actually got to their place, I met with my host dad Josh and he introduced me to the house and everything and their eldest daughter came home and she’s wearing all Red Sox gear and it’s Opening Day and she ran home from school just to catch first pitch and as I was coming downstairs she’s on the couch and has the game on. That’s just an example of what Red Sox Nation is all about. The presence is felt in the minor leagues.

Q: Why is it important for you to come back to Okotoks and do these coaching clinics? Also, what did you take away from the Okotoks Dawgs Academy that helped you get as far as you have in your career?

A: This is (fellow Dawgs Academy catching alum Aaron Ethier) and I putting on our third camp and we’re hoping to put some more on in the years coming up. It means a lot to me to come back here. This is where my roots are. I’ll never forget the day that I tried out for the Okotoks Dawgs as a 13-year-old kid and, sure enough, (Academy Director) Vince Ircandia asked me if I had a catcher’s mitt and I never left the position.

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It means a lot to me in the sense that I know that a lot of people gave up their time to make me the best that I could be and that’s what I want to do for these kids. I love seeing how far they can go. We have a really good track record of catchers coming out of this academy and I want to continue that. It also means a lot because I know that the people before me came back and gave their time for us.

It all comes full circle and it just shows the pride that this academy has.

Q: Last question: how far are you willing to go to keep your playing career going?

A: Right now, I’m just going to try to take it day by day. I still have my schooling to finish up. I still have some other aspects of my life that have been put on hold. I knew that in wanting to pursue a career in baseball, so we’ll see. Spring training comes around the corner in late February, early March and time will only tell.

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