About the Last Three Years

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

June 19, 2016 was a perfect day for baseball. Bright blue skies, shining sun, all that good stuff. Mom and I don’t usually splurge on up-close seats, but the $20 front row tickets just to the right of home plate were too good to pass up.

And so we settled into our seats at Everett Memorial Stadium.

Just a few weeks removed from college graduation and still living at home on Bainbridge Island, the journey to Everett was no small undertaking. A drive, a ferry ride, and an even longer drive. Kyle Lewis was worth it, though.

We all have a baseball type. Fireballing pitchers, beefy sluggers, etc. Me? I like the athletic outfielders. Swift on the grass and on the basepaths, ideally with the potential for a touch of pop in their bats. Bonus points for an underdog story.

Lewis, as the club’s first round pick, wasn’t an underdog per se, but his path wasn’t traditional either. He’d been undrafted out of Shiloh High School but, as a former two-sport athlete, he chose to take the leap and focus on baseball. No SEC offers came calling, so he joined the Mercer University Bears.

Mercer is the oldest private university in Georgia, and the photographs of their notable alumnae are precisely what you'd expect: Stodgy portraits of bespectacled white men. The Baseball-Reference page for former Bears has just a smattering of not-so-illustrious names; guys like "Coot Veal," "Tige Stone," "Cory Gearrin."

Lewis' freshman season was strong, but then he traveled up the coast and spent the summer playing for the Cotuit Kettleers in the Cape Cod League. When he returned to Macon he was on a whole new level, slashing .367/.423/.677, winning Southern Conference Baseball Player of the Year, and sharing the Gregg Olson Award (for breakout college players who "elevate their game to an elite level during the season") with a young Razorbacks player named Andrew Benintendi.

He returned to the Cape Cod League that summer, this time playing for the Orleans Firebirds (alongside two other future 2016 Mariners draft picks). His dominance continued with the Bears, and he was named Southern Conference Baseball Player of the Year yet again, in addition to being recognized as Baseball America's College Player of the Year.

Lewis was, understandably, widely regarded as one of the top hitters coming in to the 2016 draft. The Mariners had the 11th overall pick. It seemed like a pipe dream that he could drop to Seattle. But for all his accolades, he'd been relatively hidden away; he'd hit well in the Cape, but his success at Mercer prompted questions about the quality of pitchers he'd been facing.

The M's got him at 11. It felt like an absolute steal, and helped paint Jerry Dipoto's first draft in Seattle as a tremendous success. They signed him shortly thereafter, and sent him to Everett.


In the third inning of that Tuesday in July, Mom and I rose to our feet as Kyle Lewis connected powerfully on an Emmanuel Ramirez pitch. It didn't quite clear the fences, but we whooped and hollered gleefully as Lewis dusted himself off at third.

This is the future, I thought to myself, and damn does it look fun.

A few innings later, that fun came to a crunching, crushing halt.


I'm not a good prospects person. Anyone who's eaten a meal with me can attest to my impatience, and I struggle, like so many of us do, with finding a balance between hope and protective realism. But I'm loyal, too. Often to a foolish degree. Somewhere in the LL podcast archives you can hear me boldly declare that Lewis could be up with the Mariners at the end of 2018.

So, as he rehabbed and slogged his way through the minors, I endeavored to follow his progress. He was still my favorite type of player, yes, but having witnessed the lowest point in his career I felt especially invested in his success. Dreams are silly, foolish things, with the power to sustain and destroy in equal measure. They're also one of life's great unifiers. To witness the pursuit and achievement of a dream is to be uniquely connected to not just the dreamer themselves, but to all those who also watched, helped, or encouraged along the way.

Last night, while sleepily brushing my teeth, I watched Kyle Lewis connect on a pitch up in the zone from Trevor Bauer. 106 MPH off the bat, it cleared the fences with room to spare.

This is the future, I thought to myself, and damn does it look fun.