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A Well-Traveled Career


There's no question he's been around the block once or twice. There's no question he made efforts to be the ultimate teammate and warrior on the mound. Fireflies pitching coach Jonathan Hurst spent eight years in Minor League Baseball (1987-1994, 1998). The 51-year-old made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos in 1992. Hurst was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the fourth round of the 1987 MLB Draft.


"I tried to keep my mindset as simple as possible because I played in so many places…the Mexican League, minor leagues, playing internationally," Hurst explained. "Basically it came down to one thing…just be yourself. You don't have to change and be somebody different just because you are in a new place."


Hurst has been to 12 different countries so far during his lifetime.


"The crazy thing is that all these places I've been to I've either coached or played in," Hurst said. "There is not one country I've visited strictly for vacation time."


After being drafted by Texas in 1987, Hurst was assigned to the Port Charlotte Rangers (Florida State League) in 1988.


"It's funny because you look back at those times and you don't know what you have on the team and who is going to turn into a star," Hurst chuckled. "If you go back in time and look at the guys we had, it's incredible to think about what they turned out to be."


While in Port Charlotte, Hurst was teammates with Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, and even Sammy Sosa.


"I was pretty much the big brother to Sosa," Hurst said. "He didn't know how to drive a car. His English was broken up. He relied on a lot of things from me as far as getting him to the grocery store and reading different products to him. I remember he had a Jheri curl back then and I had to take him every Friday to get it done."


Hurst's mindset was to help Sosa all the time since he came to the United States from a different country. The current Fireflies pitching coach realized how special a person he was back in the day.


"He was an incredible person to be around and very family oriented," Hurst elaborated. "Every penny that he made he sent back to the Dominican Republic. He didn't care if he had a dollar in his pocket. The goal was to make sure his family had what they needed."


Sosa and the rest of Hurst's teammates in the minor leagues helped him produce an impressive career. Hurst posted a 1.88 ERA in more than 57 innings during his first professional season. Prior to the 1992 season, the Spartanburg (SC) native was listed as the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.


At the turn of the 21st century, Hurst went on to play professionally in Taiwan and Japan. This lasted until 2006. He turned many heads while he pitched internationally. Hurst was with the Yakult Swallows (Japan) and Brother Elephants (Taiwan). The former hurler led these clubs in total innings and complete games every year he was a part of these squads.


"I always pushed myself to stay in the game as long as possible," Hurst said. "Some of this passion relates back to the teammates I had while in Minor League Baseball. Also, being overseas I didn't have as good enough of a bullpen so when guys would start warming up it motivated me to remain on the mound."


It was a different atmosphere out in Taiwan and Japan. The fans were more into the game and several showed up to the stadium well before to watch batting practice. There were approximately 15 to 20 thousand fans at each contest hours in advance, according to Hurst.


"The fans are so high energy," Hurst mentioned. "There are different sections of fans who have specific chants and some that blow horns. I was never once booed while playing out there."


Hurst won two championships when he was in Taiwan with the Brother Elephants in 2003 and 2004. He began his coaching career with the Mets in 2006 and has been with the organization since that point. This is his second season as the pitching coach with the Columbia Fireflies.