A few weeks ago, Brian Wolfe was enjoying the good life as a member of an elite college baseball program. Among other things, Wolfe’s University of Washington team traveled by air on road trips around the Pacific-12 Conference and elsewhere in the country.
Then Wolfe signed a professional baseball contract and, well, life changed.
These days, Wolfe plays for the Ogden Raptors of the eight-team Class A Pioneer League, which includes teams in Montana, Idaho, Colorado and Utah. After a recent 14-inning game in Grand Junction, Colo., the Raptors boarded their bus at midnight for the five-hour drive back to Ogden.
Unable to nod off in his seat, “I just laid on the floor of the bus and tried to sleep,” Wolfe said.
Ah, such is life in baseball’s low minor leagues. As Wolfe pointed out, “it’s not nearly as fancy or as glamorous as a Division I Pac-12 school. It’s definitely an adjustment. But the game’s still the same. It’s still baseball.”
For Wolfe, a 2009 graduate of Snohomish High School, the deprivations and occasional hardships are simply part of a journey that will, perhaps in time, help him realize a dream. Like hundreds of other young ballplayers around the country, including a few dozen right here in Everett with the AquaSox, Wolfe is hoping to rise through the pro ranks to baseball’s major leagues.
“My dream is to play pro baseball on the highest stage and to do it successfully,” he said. “And they say that if you have a jersey in the minor leagues, you have a chance.”
Wolfe’s UW career ended back in early June when the Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA tournament at a regional in Oxford, Miss. Five days later he was chosen in the 20th round of the baseball draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. An outfielder and first baseman, he signed his contract and was assigned to Ogden, where he arrived seven days after the draft.
“In one week,” he said, “I went from being a college student-athlete to moving out of my apartment and getting it all cleaned up, and then to living in a new state.”
Wolfe, who got a signing bonus of “a few thousand (dollars),” now lives in the basement of a host family’s home.
“It’s a nice setup,” he said. “And the family is great.”
The players typically arrive at the ballpark early in the afternoon and work out for several hours before playing that night.
“Each game is kind of like an all-day event,” he said, “and that’s kind of where the grind comes from.”
Though Wolfe was an offensive force for the Huskies — he batted a league-best.383 in Pac-12 games, and was an all-conference selection — his pro career has started slowly. Through 10 games and 34 at-bats for the Raptors, he is hitting .176 with one home run and three RBI.
Despite the modest statistics, “I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I was doing fine, but then I had two 0-for-4 games, just two bad days, and so it looks a lot worse than it is. And then you’re not playing every day (because of Ogden’s large roster).”
Going forward, he went on, “you still have to take quality at-bats, execute the plan and hit the ball hard. Because more often than not, the result is going to be in your favor if you play the game right.”
Wolfe knows he faces a long and uncertain path to reach the major leagues. But he has considerable confidence, buoyed in large part by his strong Christian faith.
“It will be extremely challenging, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in myself,” he said. “I firmly believe I have the ability. And if (the big leagues) is where God wants me to be, then I’m going to get there.
“My dream is to play this great game and glorify God while I’m doing it. So I’m actually living my dream right now.”