Rockwood Summit High senior Jacob Wesley traded in his catcher’s mitt for a St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball uniform this baseball season.
Wesley was selected, from 2,000 applicants, as the official bat boy of the Redbirds. He was one of only 20 youths interviewed for the prestigious position.
In an experience that he described as “surreal,” Wesley had an up-close-and-personal view of major league baseball. He also had full Busch Stadium and clubhouse access. The big takeaway?
“The players are real people,” Wesley shared. “They aren’t just the statistics behind their professional career. They are people I can relate to. They make mistakes and have the same struggles that everyday people do. The day-to-day process was intriguing.”
He said the best part was developing personal relationships with some of the young players and specifically named Paul DeJong, Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia. While all the players were friendly, respectful and engaging, he said he developed a closer personal relationship with those he mentioned. Wesley also specifically named Cardinal’s third base coach Mike Shildt.
“I also coach other young people, and Mike has given me a ton of insight about how to make baseball players better,” Wesley said.
In fact, his discussions with Shildt have inspired Wesley to become a high school math teacher with coaching high school athletics as part of his career. He said he wants to pay forward the mentoring he has received.
Wesley knows the bat boy experience will look great on a resume and college application. “It will afford me many opportunities, especially in the St. Louis area. But it’s a very, very difficult job.”
His stint with the team began in April, working every home game – even during the school day. Wesley explained that he would work seven days on when the team was home, and then have seven days off while they were away. When working, he logged up to 60 hours per week. It meant missing a week of school at a time.
“Rockwood was completely supportive. I was excused from a lot of assignments and was given extended time to take tests or complete work. I would catch up with school work on the off-weeks,” Wesley explained. Admittedly, he said he felt overwhelmed with his school and bat boy responsibilities, which didn’t end until the Cardinal’s season ended on Sept. 30. “My teachers were very encouraging and supportive – my friends, too.”
So what does a bat boy’s job entail? A lot more than you might think, he said. Wesley set up water jugs, stocked the baseballs, retrieved bats and provided new bats for the next batter. The most time-consuming aspect of his job was laundry. He was responsible for cleaning uniforms and shoes, using clubhouse facilities. He would arrive five hours before game time and work for three hours after. After road trips, Wesley would be responsible for unpacking for the players – and doing more laundry. On particularly muddy and rainy days, he might not get home until 2 a.m. Not that he’s complaining.
“I learned about sacrifice,” he said. “I gave up my last year of select club baseball and playing soccer this fall at Rockwood Summit. I also missed out on a lot with my friends. But it was definitely worth it!”
As difficult as it was to juggle school and the Cardinal’s schedule, Wesley is disappointed that the team didn’t make post season playoffs.
“It would have been amazing to be a part of the post-season play and celebrate their victories with them,” he said. Still, he is basking in the experience, happy to be playing high school soccer again and being able to hang out with his friends during his last year of high school.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, for sure. Not many people ever get this opportunity, and I’m blessed to have had it,” he said.