For most players entering their final season in the Prospect League means the last time they will be baseball playing at a competitive level.
Chase Simmons wasn’t for sure what his future held when he started camp with the Quincy Gems this summer, but he knew of a couple things he wanted to accomplish.
“I really just wanted to focus on keep playing competitive baseball,” he said. “I think another goal was to lead that team (Gems) to another Prospect League title.”
The latter will not happen for Simmons, but the former has.
Toward the beginning of the season the Gateway Grizzlies of the Independent League contacted the Gems catcher.
“I got the call from the Grizzlies on that first Monday practice and I had a tryout that Wednesday,” Simmons recalled. “It was very exciting and nervous at the same time to pursue.”
A call to his parents followed immediately after he found out he would be a professional player.
“I was just speechless really,” he said. “I called my parents right away, moreso my dad because he’s been my number one fan and as always wanted this for me.”
Simmons played in just five games for the Gems before signing his professional contract with the Grizzlies.
He led the Gems in batting with a .444 average as he collected eight hits in 18 at-bats, including a three-hit performance on June 1 against the Springfield Sliders. In his final game as a Gem, Simmons hit a home run.
The recent Lubbock Christian University grad and Cape Girardeau, MO native was in his second season with the Gems. He mentioned his time spent in Quincy are some moments he will not soon forget.
“I played with them (Gems) in 2015 and had a blast,” Simmons said. “I will always remember my host family, Wendell and Sandy Wray. I love them to death and I am blessed they opened up their home to me to stay.”
He also mentioned he appreciated the support of the Gems’ fanbase.
“I loved coming to the ballpark and seeing the fans,” he said. “Quincy is very supportive and I loved being able to play in front of them every night.”
Although Simmons is pursuing his dreams of catching on with an affiliated major league baseball team, he also misses his teammate on the Gems.
“I miss the guys there (Gems) the most,” he admitted. “It was hard leaving those guys after the first week because it seemed like it was going to be a great summer. The guys I met were really cool and laid back.”
Simmons collected his first professional hit on June 10 at Lake Erie.
“It was awesome,” he said of his RBI infield single. “It was one of the better feelings in my baseball career. When you see the guys in the dugout go crazy cause its your first hit and asking for the ball for you, there’s no better feeling.”
The hit came in the sixth inning with two outs and on a 2-2 count.
“He threw me a slider and I hit it off the end (of the bat) and in the six hole (shortstop),” Simmons described. “I was able to beat it out and it was just an incredible feeling.”
Through 23 games, Simmons is hitting a respectable .253 with the Grizzlies. He has 20 hits in 79 plate appearances. He hit his first home run with the Grizzlies on July 18 at Joliet.
The game Simmons has loved since he was four years old has not always been easy. He admitted one point in his career he became out of shape and people started to doubt his abilities.
It was also what fueled him to become the player he is developing into today.
“People told me I would not go anywhere in baseball because I had let myself get out of shape,” he explained. “Those people have a special place in my heart because every time I’m struggling to motivate myself to get after it everyday, those people pop into my head. It motivates me even more to prove them all wrong.”
And so far the professional baseball player is well on his way to proving all his critics wrong.