CEDAR RAPIDS — Derrick Loveless is all grown up now.
It seems like the 2011 Gazette Male Athlete of the Year was just roaming center field for the Solon baseball team, making big plays as a receiver for the Solon football team and goalkeeping saves for the Solon soccer team.
But the 23-year-old is newly married. He and wife Ashley got hitched in January.
And Loveless is in his sixth season of professional baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays minor-league system. He’s with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League, for whom he homered Thursday night in a game at Richmond.
“It’s kind of crazy to think that it’s been six years. I’m really happy that the Blue Jays have kept me around,” Loveless said. “When I signed, I didn’t know what to expect, especially my first couple of years. But I enjoy it. I really do.”
It hasn’t been easy for the left-handed hitting outfielder. A 27th-round draft pick in 2011, Loveless signed after Solon’s state title season that July as a raw but athletic player who had never concentrated on just baseball.
He hit .151 combined in Rookie ball his first two seasons and has a .233 career batting average in 421 career games going into Saturday. His best season came in the Midwest League in 2014, when he posted a .264 average in 119 games for the Lansing Lugnuts, with nine triples, 66 walks and 17 stolen bases.
He spent all of 2015 with high-A Dunedin and began this season there in the Florida State League. Loveless has held his own in 34 games since being promoted to Double-A, hitting .232 with six homers.
His nine combined homers between New Hampshire and Dunedin are one shy of his career high.
“Last year was kind of a down year,” he said. “But I feel like something has started to click a little bit for me. I feel like I’ve started to figure some things out.
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“It’s been a really good experience to get to play at a different level here, against different competition. I’m playing against guys and teams I’ve never played against before.”
As a player with five years in and still in Class A, Loveless was eligible this past offseason for baseball’s Rule 5 drafts but found no takers. Again this offseason, he’ll be eligible for free agency unless the Blue Jays add him to their 40-man major league roster.
The old saying goes that once a guy makes it to Double-A, he can begin to feel the big leagues. Loveless was asked if that’s the case for him.
You never know. Again, he is still just 23.
“Yeah, it’s in the back of my mind, thinking that I’m that close,” he said. “You kind of feel like the opportunity is right around the corner. But you can’t get ahead of yourself at all. You just hope that all the hard work eventually pays off and gets you to the major leagues.”
How They're Doing
|Colin Rea (Cascade): Traded to the Miami Marlins, the right-handed starter went into Saturday with a 5-5 record in 19 games, 18 starts.|
|Scott Schebler (Cedar Rapids Prairie): Triple-A Louisville (Reds) outfielder hit for the cycle in a game last week for Triple-A Indianapolis. Has a .312 batting average with 18 doubles, seven triples, 13 home runs and 42 RBIs in 73 games.|
|Matt Dermody (University of Iowa): Hasn’t allowed a run in four relief appearances, spanning 3 2/3 innings. Season totals between three levels: 3-1, 1.30 ERA and three saves in 31 appearances.|
|Jon Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Relief pitcher has been sent back from Double-A to high-A Frederick (Orioles), where he threw three hitless innings with seven strikeouts in his first appearance.|
|Mitch Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Starting pitcher is 6-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 18 starts for Class A West Virginia (Pirates). Only 76 hits and 14 walks allowed in 97 2/3 innings, with 100 strikeouts.|
|Derrick Loveless (Solon): Outfielder hitting .232 with six home runs in 34 games at Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays).|
|Jake Yacinich (University of Iowa): Shortstop is hitting .241 in 51 games for low-A Burlington (Angels). Has four home runs and 27 RBIs.|
|Joel Booker (University of Iowa): Outfielder is hitting .283 in 30 games for Arizona Rookie League White Sox, with a home run, 16 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.|
|Kris Goodman (University of Iowa): Has been promoted back to low-A Greensboro (Marlins), where he is 2-for-8 in his first two games.|
|Nick Roscetti (University of Iowa): Shortstop continues to be on the disabled list for high-A Brevard County (Brewers).|
|Eric Toole (University of Iowa): Outfielder hitting .266 in 17 games for Shortseason-A Boise (Rockies). Has seven RBIs and nine stolen bases.|
|A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids Washington): Has made four short starts for Shortseason-A Vermont (Athletics). Is 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA.|
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