Roemon Fields is known for his speed, but his path to professional baseball was anything but quick.
Fields, who just finished his second season within the Toronto Blue Jays organization, spent the 2015 campaign largely with the Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays and Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The Seattle native led both clubs in stolen bases, and his 46 total swipes were the most of any player in the entire Toronto organization.
Not bad for a former mailman.
Fields, now 24, played at Yakima Community College in Washington and then spent his junior and senior years roaming the outfield and burning the basepaths for Bethany College. This institution of higher learning, located in the small town of Lindsborg, Kansas, and boasting an enrollment of approximately 700 students, is not exactly the first school that comes to mind when one thinks "baseball powerhouse." But Fields did well there -- in baseball as well as in track and field -- and had high hopes of taking his game to the professional ranks.
"My junior year I was batting .450, and I got a pre-Draft workout with the Kansas City Royals," said Fields, speaking prior to the Fisher Cats game on Sept. 2. "I went there [to Kansas City], and they said they were going to draft me. They called me and said, 'Would you go in this round for this much?' I said 'Yeah, sure, I just want to play.' Then, nothing. [Like], 'yeah, sorry, you were on our Draft board but we didn't pick you.'"
After that setback, Fields entered his senior year with a sense of resignation. His thinking at the time was that if baseball wasn't going to work out, then maybe he should find something that would.
"I just wanted to get school done, and baseball was second on my list," he said. "It's not like I gave up, but I guess there are more important things, it made me realize. I was still batting good -- .350, .370 -- but nothing else happened and I just went home."
Back in Seattle again, Fields began working at a Just Sports shop located within an area mall. After a few months of, as he puts it, "selling caps to the kids, getting paid minimum wage," he secured an interview with the United States Postal Service.
"The post office pays a lot more, so I started working there." he said. "Delivering [mail]. I'm done with baseball, not working out at all. Just going to work and coming home."
Fields may have quit on baseball during that summer of 2013, but baseball didn't quit on him. Marcus McKinney, Fields' coach at Yakima Community College, was assembling a USA team for an upcoming global tournament in British Columbia and was intent on adding Fields to the roster.
"[McKinney] called me and said 'Do you want to play in this world tournament?' And I said, 'Sure.' I mean, I didn't say 'Sure.' I said 'No, not really,'" recalled Fields, with a laugh. "He kept begging me and my brother said, 'Just give it a try.' All right. Then, the last day [of the tournament], a Blue Jay scout said 'Do you want to play?' I told him, no. He said 'I'm going to send [a contract] in the mail anyway.'"
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In the end, it was Fields' grandmother, Rose, who convinced Fields not to give up on baseball. She did so by reminding him how much it would have meant to his grandfather.
"My grandpa, he taught me how to play baseball, he taught all my brothers," said Fields. "He had said that he would love to see his dream come true, to see one of his grandchildren play. He always worked hard with me, he called me 'Little Griffey' my whole life. So I'm just doing it for him, and my grandma, at the end of the day."
After signing with the Blue Jays on Aug. 27, 2013, Fields went to instructs in Florida and then on to the Dominican Republic for winter ball.
"I was like, if this is pro baseball, I don't know," he said. "The atmosphere, it was different. You go to another country, nobody speaks your language, and that's your first experience with pro ball. I stuck with it, and then the next year I went to [the Class A Short Season] Vancouver [Canadians]."
In Vancouver, closer to home, Fields once again learned to relax and have fun on the baseball diamond. He earned a Northwest League All-Star spot while with the Canadians, hitting .269 and leading the league with 48 stolen bases. That success carried over into the 2015 campaign, which, in addition to Dunedin and New Hampshire, included a six-game stint with Triple-A Buffalo. MLB.com recently ranked Fields as the No. 23 prospect in the Blue Jays' system, giving him a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale for his running ability.
"It just comes naturally, running and just having fun. I don't look at it like you've got to do great," he said. "I never get mad out here. I mean, I might get frustrated, but like I always tell people: 'We're playing in dirt.'"
With that being case, then, would Fields ever consider returning to the post office?
"Nah," he said with a shrug. "Not if baseball works out."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.