Stewart Ijames had to learn the hard way that when you spurn Major League teams twice, a third shot is a tough one to come by. Now that he's gotten that chance, the 26-year-old is doing his best not to waste it.
The D-backs outfield prospect continued to dominate in his first season in affiliated Minor League Baseball on Wednesday, cranking two homers -- one a grand slam -- and setting a career high with six RBIs as Rookie-level Missoula topped Helena, 11-4.
"It's kind of cool to be helping this team right now," Ijames said. "A two-home run game, six RBIs, you can't beat that. It was a fun game to play for me. Awesome for the team."
The Louisville product helped Missoula pull away early with a third-inning slam. After walks to Henry Castillo and Fernery Ozuna and a single by Sergio Alcantara, Ijames jacked a bases-loaded shot to center field off J.B. Kole to stake Missoula to a 5-0 lead.
"It was a first-pitch curve and he left it up," Ijames said. "I was just trying to get another run for us, punch a ball to the outfield. Luckily, with the curve, it was already spinning the way you want it to spin for backspin and kept carrying out to center field."
The Osprey added two more runs that inning and Ijames' added two more with a long ball in the fourth. This jack also plated Alcantara, who reached on a walk to lead off the inning.
"That was one of those swings you love as a hitter," he said. "You hit it and don't feel it hit the barrel. You go, 'Oh, that one I got.'"
Ijames is in his first affiliated Minor League stint, despite being last drafted four years ago. He was first selected by the Brewers in the 46th round of the 2007 Draft out of high school, and then by the Yankees in the 29th round in 2010 out of college. He did not sign after either selection, though.
Instead, he stayed at Louisville through the 2012 season. He graduated ranked second in school history in RBIs (212), at-bats (828), third in games played (239) and fifth in hits (256).
In 2013, he latched on with the Washington Wild Things in the independent Frontier League. He hit .297 with a .919 OPS in 90 games in 2013 and then batted .319 in 50 games this season before Arizona came calling.
"Once you burn a bridge and turn down Major League Baseball, you don't get a fair opportunity. I've had to go the hard route," Ijames said. "I went to indy ball. I think, with turning it down twice, people were questioning if I wanted to play in the Majors.
"I just was too young, too immature and not ready. Now I am. I'm ready to play baseball. My mind-set is 100 percent on baseball."
Ijames penned a contract in mid-July and has backed it up in the Pioneer League, hitting .298 with 10 homers in 31 games.
"I'm a broke, struggling 26-year-old trying to make a dream come true for myself," he said. "I don't have any regrets at all. I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't taken the road I've taken."