Gregg Jefferies remains one of our favorite sons at Baseball America, and for good reason.
Jefferies holds the unofficial title of most appearances—five times before he reached the big leagues—on the cover of BA. He was our first two-time Minor League Player of the Year, in 1986 and 1987.
While he did not live up to rather unrealistic expectations, Jefferies did have a respectable 14-year major league career.
Today, the 50-year-old Jefferies gives hitting lessons for players as young as 9 years old at Office Sports Academy in Anaheim. He is the father of two young children from his current marriage, and two grown children from a previous marriage. Jake, his oldest, reached Triple-A as a catcher with the Rays before leaving the game following the 2013 season.
Jefferies was the most heralded prospect of the BA era until Andruw Jones burst on the scene in 1995. We first took note of him as a 16-year-old playing in the American Legion World Series.
From there, the Mets drafted him 20th overall in 1985 out of high school in San Mateo, Calif. Jefferies earned MVP honors in the Rookie-level Appalachian (1985), high Class A Carolina (1986) and Double-A Texas (1987) leagues and, of course, claimed back-to-back Minor League POY awards.
By the time he arrived in the major leagues as a second baseman at the end of the 1988 season—a stint that included a 9-for-27 (.333) performance in the National League Championship Series for the Mets—Jefferies had torn through the minor leagues with a .333 average, 47 home runs, 314 RBIs and 143 stolen bases over 458 games.
Jefferies was a minor league legend.
He twice hit for the cycle during the 1986 season with Lynchburg. An opposing Carolina League manager unsuccessfully had his bat checked for cork by the league president.
Jefferies learned to perfect his swing, from both sides of the plate, from his father Rich's unusual hitting drills. He swung a sawed-off bat beneath the water while standing knee-deep in a swimming pool, and learned to identify balls thrown at him marked with an "X" during practice.
Jefferies never could settle into a position to play in the big leagues—he spent almost equal time at second base, third base, first base and left field—but it did not keep him from hitting. He led the NL in doubles with 40 in 1990 with the Mets. He was an all-star in 1993 and 1994 for the Cardinals when, as a first baseman, he batted a cumulative .335 with an adjusted OPS+ of 137.
Jefferies batted .289/.344/.421 for his career with the Mets, Royals, Cardinals, Phillies, Angels and Tigers. Amazingly, he finished his career with 472 walks and 348 strikeouts.
His career was short-circuited at age 32 in 2000 when he popped a hamstring while sprinting to first base while playing for the Tigers.
"It took me about three years to be able to watch baseball again," Jefferies said. "It wasn't a depression phase, it was just missing the game. It's what I did my whole life, and with one sprint down the line . . . "
Now Jefferies connects to the game by teaching others how to hit. He uses some of the same batting drills learned from his father, including swinging a bat in water.