Former TJC teammates continuing their dreams

Eric Weiss just completed his first season of minor league baseball for the rookie league team of the Los Angeles Angels. The former TJC standout slides into third base in a game played in 2011. (Jarah Wright | Staff File Photo)

It's June. Countless baseball players are by phones and computers waiting to see if their names will be called in the 2013 MLB draft. For two former Tyler Junior College baseball players, the call came with the chance to play professional baseball.

Former TJC outfielder Eric Weiss said he had been contacted by the Colorado Rockies, but the Los Angeles Angels kept up with him the most while he was playing for Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

"The Angels scout contacted me in March and pretty much followed me around throughout the season," Weiss said. "It was probably once every two or three weekends that I was getting a phone call from him or he was showing up at the games."

Weiss said draft weekend was pretty intense as he waited for news with his family in Houston.

"When the 30th round started, I had a few doubts. It was running through my mind that maybe this wasn't meant to be. I was sitting on the couch scrolling through Twitter when my phone rang and it was the scout," Weiss said. "He said log onto your computer and listen to the draft, I think you're name is about to pop up. I called my mom and dad into our study and pulled it up. Sure enough the 35th round started and the Angels said my name."

Sharing the moment with his family was something Weiss said he'd never forget.

"My mom was crying and my dad was crying. I was ecstatic. I couldn't even talk. It was a dream come true right then and there," Weiss said. "I received another phone call from my scout and the following Wednesday he showed up to my house and I signed my contract."

Weiss was drafted by the Angels but not at the position that many would expect.

"When I came to TJC, I was a catcher. That fall, Coach Wren told me they wanted to work me out in the outfield. That was the first time I had ever played outfield in my entire baseball career," Weiss said.

"When I went to Corpus, I was there just to be an outfielder and we had a catcher go down so I helped out."

Weiss said the first time the Angels scout ever saw Weiss play, the program with the rosters listed him as an outfielder and a catcher.

"The scout said ‘I don't know if I can draft you as an outfielder but I can definitely draft you as a catcher. Is that okay?' Of course, I told him absolutely."

Weiss got to experience minor league competition before he was drafted when A&M Corpus Christi scrimmaged the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

"Each year we play a three-team round robin tournament there (Whataburger Field). This past year, the day before the minor league teams started playing, we scrimmaged the Hooks," Weiss said. "It was awesome and a cool experience. They were very supportive of us and kept telling us don't quit and just keep chasing your dream. I saw how much fun they had playing us and it helped us realize they're just guys like us."

Weiss said that experience gave him insight heading into his first professional season. He was assigned to play for the Arizona League Angels this summer and said it was everything he expected.

"I went in there not knowing a single soul. The days were really long. We would practice that afternoon and play a game that night," Weiss said. "We stayed in hotels and had vans pick us up to take us places because we didn't have cars."

He also picked up a new skill from his teammates.

"Half the team was Latin American guys, so one of the things I learned this summer was picking up Spanish," Weiss said. "Being drafted as a catcher and having to communicate with a Latin pitcher, I needed to be able to speak with him so I learned some Spanish."

Between the college season and his first professional season, Weiss estimated he's played in close to 120 games. He's back in Houston and said there are definitely things he wants to improve on during the off-season.

"I'm hoping to get as many reps and bullpens as I can get. I want to be able to get better every single day while I'm home," Weiss said. "I'll report to spring training in March and I plan on having a really good spring and hopefully break camp and be posted on a full-season team."

 

Drafted Jester Decides to Stay In School

Jason Jester was drafted in the 30th round by the San Diego Padres but unlike his former teammate, Weiss, di dnot play minor league baseball. He instead opted to finish out his senior year at Texas A&M.

"The draft is a weird thing. I don't think anybody will ever figure out the draft, in my opinion. You don't know where you're going to go until it happens unless you go in the first round," Jester said. "I was told I was going to go anywhere from the sixth round on and was told to figure out a number and stick with it. With the new draft, the money drops down a little bit so it was lower than what me and my family were looking for."

Despite not signing, Jester said he thinks the situation was a win-win.

"It's a lifelong dream to start a professional career but to be here at A&M another year, I love it. I will be graduating and get my ring," Jester said. "That's a lot to look forward to as well."

Coming out of high school, Jester didn't even know if he was going to play college baseball.

"I had made my mind up to go to technical school in Marshall at TSTC. I wanted to start working in the oil business and got talked into going to try out at TJC. After that, Coach Hering gave me a chance," Jester said. "That's how my whole college baseball journey began, with someone just giving me a chance. I'm very grateful for Coach Herring and TJC and everything they did for me."

Jester transferred to Texas A&M in 2012 and has become a major part of the Aggies bullpen. He said coming to play at a Division 1 school was a different experience for him.

"There's a lot of smaller schools I could have gone to but I felt like the decision to come down here was to challenge myself and get in with the big guys," Jester said. "Coming from a Division 3 junior college, it was overwhelming at first. I really worked hard and the coaching staff here and the guys I surround myself with are nothing but the best. Looking back on it, I feel like it was the right decision 100 percent."

This spring, Jester set the single season saves record and wants to set the career saves record in the 2014 season.

"That's my ultimate goal here at A&M. I think anything less than that is underachieving so I'm training hard right now, running and working out a lot," Jester said.

With that goal in mind, Jester is looking ahead to the 2014 season with excitement and determination.

And waiting again by the phone next June.

"I look forward to another great year. I'll get another shot if it's in the cards. I'm hoping in the spring to get my name called in the draft," Jester said. "I'm very appreciative of the San Diego Padres organization for giving me that chance. I'm just going to put my head down and go to work and see what happens in the spring."

 
 

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