At the beginning of 2010 Appalachian League baseball season, new Princeton Rays' pitcher Justin Hall was preparing to start the year as the clubhouse manager of the Pulaski Mariners. He is in the Appy League still, but wearing a different uniform and settling in at Princeton after an unusual sequence of events that landed him here.
Hall kept working after being undrafted out of the 2010 First-Year Amateur Player draft out of college and attended a scouting day where various Major League Baseball scouts observed possible talent that was missed was overlooked in the recently completed 2010 draft.
While Hall was waiting to hear back from his appearance at the scout day, he was preparing to be the clubhouse manager for the Pulaski Mariners. A few days before Hall was supposed to start his job, he got the call he hoped for from the Tampa Bay Rays to sign as a free agent. A dream of any kid had come true for Hall, but just later than he had expected.
"I didn't get a chance to work as clubhouse manager, I just got everything set-up for the guy who is there now, and then had to go to Florida (Gulf Coast League Rays), said Hall."
On July 31, Hall was promoted from the Gulf Coast League Rays to the Princeton Rays. For most players, it is a challenge to play away from home throughout their minor league career, however for Hall his promotion comes with some comfort because he grew up in nearby Martinsville, VA and currently resides in Christiansburg, VA. Hall is a 2006 graduate of Bassett High School in Martinsville, VA.
Following his high school career at Bassett High School, Hall spent his collegiate years from 2007-2010 at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, North Carolina. There, Hall posted a 21-10 record, while recording 208 strikeouts in 236 innings pitched at Mars Hill. Hall also compiled ten complete games during his collegiate career. Hall was All-South Atlantic Conference Second Team in 2010. Hall's statistics and accolades following his career at Mars Hill College make him one of the best players in the program's history.
"It is good to play here in front family and friends because in Florida they weren't able to come see me. In Florida, the sun would be beating down on you, while you played in the day, here you are also able to play at night," said Hall.
Hall's fitting homecoming came in his first appearance on August 2, ironically against the Pulaski Mariners. Although Hall gave up four runs in his first inning, but he did settle down to complete a scoreless ninth inning. Hall also compiled four strikeouts, while not walking a single batter in the game.
"I was extremely pumped and had a lot of adrenaline going," said Hall when asked about his unique experience. "This is great competition, I'm going to keep working hard to get to the top, and learn as much as I can. My ultimate goal is to make it to the show."
Hall's next trip to the mound showed the results of someone who now had a first game out of his system as he threw two scoreless innings in Princeton on August 6 versus the Greeneville Astros, a two-inning stint that also included three strikeouts.
Although Hall is at his second level in 2010, he is not satisfied. He isn't looking to slow down his hard work ethic, which has put him where he is today. Hall currently has 17 strikeouts to 14 innings pitched, while only walking one hitter. Hall's exceptional control and ability to pitch in the strike zone should allow him to advance up Tampa Bay Rays organizational ladder quickly.
Hall said, "These guys and this organization has been great, these are some of the best guys I've been in a clubhouse with and (Marty) DeMerritt definitely is a pitching coach I like with a lot of experience."
For the immediate future, he will play close to home for the Princeton Rays, but the Hall would likely welcome the opportunity to once again leave home and advance to the next level whenever the opportunity arises. Hall almost began the 2010 season as a clubhouse employee of one Appalachian League team, but is happy instead to be playing for another team in the league while living any baseball player's dream: that of being a professional baseball player.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.