At just 21 years old, outfielder Jacob May is already a world-class world traveler.
In just 10 months, May has gone from metal bats at Coastal Carolina to wood bats in the Northwest and South Atlantic leagues, to the instructional league in Arizona.
That’s not all.
Three weeks after leaving instructional league, May flew more than 10,000 miles from his home in Liberty Township, Ohio, to Australia, where he has spent the rest of the winter playing with the Sydney Blue Sox.
It has been a tall task for the 21-year-old, but he has handled it with aplomb.
“Overall, this marathon season is giving me a chance to tone my entire game,” May said in an e-mail from Australia. “One of the important things that I can take away from this experience is how to take care of my body and pace myself throughout the long season.
“Since this was my first year in professional baseball I have not played a full season yet, but this winter has given me a closer look at how long and important the little things are in a long season, (like) taking care of your body on and off the field.”
The White Sox made May their third-round pick in June, and he signed for $525,000. Speed is his best tool, and he stole 24 bases in 66 pro games this summer while batting .303/.372/.458 between Rookie-level Great Falls and low Class A Kannapolis.
May’s extended offseason trip was initiated by the White Sox, and the club was pleased with the way May, whose bloodlines are rich with baseball—his father was a first-rounder in 1986 and his grandfather, former all-star Lee May, spent 18 seasons with the Reds and Orioles—welcomed the opportunity.
“They jumped on it,” White Sox farm director Nick Capra said, referring to May and fellow farmhand Joey DeMichele, who is also playing with Sydney. “He was a baseball rat. He was more than excited to go.”
May isn’t baseball’s only winter globetrotter. Far from it, in fact.
Angels first base prospect C.J. Cron, the team’s first-round selection in the 2011 draft, charted quite a path for himself this season. After departing from spring training in Arizona, Cron’s first stop was with Double-A Arkansas (appropriately, the Travelers), where he played in 134 games during the regular season and batted .274/.319/.428.
He added five more games during the playoffs, including the final at-bat of the Texas League season in Arkansas’ loss to San Antonio in the championship series, which ended on Sept. 15.
Three weeks later, he was back in Arizona, playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He played 20 games through the six-week mini-season before heading to the Dominican Republic, where he was playing for the Leones de Escogido.
All told, Cron had played 159 games and counting this season, or as many as most major leaguers.
Similarly, Japhet Amador, a late-season Astros signee out of Mexico, was approaching the 150-game mark. He played 104 games in the Mexican League before signing, then 13 more with Triple-A Oklahoma City. After that, it was off to Arizona for 18 more games in the AFL, then back to Mexico for the Mexican Pacific League season.
The trip down under has required some serious sacrifice on May’s part. Obviously his offseason won’t include a lot of down time, as the Australian season doesn’t end until early February, right before pitchers and catchers report. More than that, though, it had kept him from seeing his family during Thanksgiving, and will do so again for Christmas and his birthday in January.
On the flip side, however, the experience has gone beyond the opportunity for May to continue to hone his game and adjust to the rigors of a long season. It has also afforded him some fun diversions that many people will never experience.
Games in the ABL are scheduled only from Friday through Monday, with practice in the late afternoons on Tuesdays and again on Wednesday for the foreign players, who are more used to a daily grind.
With the remaining time, there’s plenty of time to see the sights of Australia, and May has taken full advantage.
“I got to see a lot of the city of Sydney. I got to see the Opera House and see the beautiful Bondi Beach,” May said. “The most memorable day while here in Sydney was going to the Taronga zoo. This is located on an island and you must ride a ferry to get to it. This zoo gives you wonderful views of the city and I got to see the kangaroos and koala bears.”
May’s season has been a whirlwind filled with more games and travel than he had ever seen before. When it’s all said and done and he’s finally home with his family for a few weeks, he said he will be able to look back with pride at what he has accomplished this year.
“This has definitely been the most unique year of my entire life. I have never played this much baseball around the world in my entire life,” he said. “Fortunately, I enjoy the game so I don’t mind the travel or the schedule.”