From fielding the winning out of the Little League World Series to being drafted in the 13th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Detroit Tigers this past June, Josh Lester's baseball career has always been filled with excitement.
Lester grew up in Columbus, Georgia as a die hard Atlanta Braves fan with his favorite player being Chipper Jones. In the summer of 2006 he made his local Little League All-Star team, which advanced all the way to the Championship Game of Little League World Series against Japan.
The finale drew a crowd of over 30,000 people and after his team took the lead in the top of the sixth inning on a two run homerun it was Lester who secured the championship by fielding a groundball at second base and tagging the runner out.
Lester's baseball success in Columbus did not stop after Little League. He reached the High School State Championship game four straight years and took the title home in each of his final three seasons. During his high school career, he batted an outstanding .350 with 103 runs batted in.
Despite a strong first three years of his high school career Lester had not received a Division I offer to play baseball going into his senior year. So with no offers on the table Lester committed to play at Darton Junior College in Georgia.
Things quickly changed for Lester after he participated in a Jupiter, Florida tournament. While at the tournament a coach from the University of Missouri took notice of the slick fielding infielder and invited him to attend a camp held by the school. Later that spring Lester received an offer to play for Missouri which he gladly accepted.
By this time Lester had also caught the eye of MLB scouts and with good reason. During his senior season at Columbus High School Lester batted .394 with two homeruns and 43 runs batted in. Following that monster senior year Lester was selected in the 30th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Cleveland Indians.
Despite being drafted Lester decided to attend Missouri and his talents were immediately put to the test. As a freshman he started 42 of the teams 50 games at shortstop while also at different points during the year seeing time at the other three infield positions. Despite playing multiple positions he only recorded four errors, the lowest among Tiger infielders and had a team infielder best .986 fielding percentage.
Lester was also impressive at the plate hitting exceptionally well in the clutch with runners on base and in scoring position. He led the team in extra base hits, which got him national notice as he was named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
Lester continued his success during his sophomore year and became the team's everyday shortstop. His stay at shortstop would only last a season though for he made the transition to third base during his junior year to make room for Ryan Howard who would play on USA baseball.
Commenting on the position switch Lester said, "It worked out really well for us where we had one of the best infields from a defensive standpoint (and) offensive (standpoint as well)."
A few months ago following a successful junior season at Missouri Lester was throwing batting practice at an on campus youth instructional camp when he noticed his head coach, Tim Jamieson, smiling at him. His coach broke the news that Lester had been drafted and he was instantly mobbed by his teammates.
Making the transition into professional baseball has definitely been a learning experience for Lester but playing in the immensely talented SEC has helped the transition. The SEC is stacked with perennial powerhouses such as LSU, Florida, and Vanderbilt, which led to an elevated level of competition.
"It does prepare you playing the best of the best," Lester said. Usually a college baseball teams third starting pitcher wouldn't be a prized prospect but by playing in the SEC he became accustomed to playing against major league talent on a daily basis.
"You would face guys on Sunday which are probably better than any other conferences Friday or Saturday starter," says Lester. The conference was littered with high draft picks many of whom Lester continues to see in the New York-Penn League. "That just goes to show how deep the conference is from a player standpoint," said Lester.
At the time this article was published Lester was among the team leaders in both RBI's and walks. He has also adjusted well to playing third base at the professional level. Lester says the biggest adjustment from college to professional baseball has been, "the daily grind, more mentally then physically."
Throughout the season he has progressed with his discipline at the plate and adjusting to the mentality of professional baseball. The Tigers have a very intriguing prospect in Josh Lester whose progression through the minor leagues is one to keep an eye on.
The Connecticut Tigers are the New York-Penn League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and play a 76 game schedule that runs from mid June through early September. 2015 season tickets, group tickets, mini plans, individual game tickets, and team merchandise are now on sale! The front office and ticket office is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be accessed in person or by calling 860-887-7962.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.