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A man who has embraced the conditions

Jarod Bayless
September 1, 2023

It was a rainy late August day in Spokane, Washington. After a thirty-minute rain delay, the Everett AquaSox and Spokane Indians commenced a messy and soggy three-and-a-half-hour game. When the contest began to reach its merciful end, the AquaSox went to one of the most steady and reliable members of

It was a rainy late August day in Spokane, Washington. After a thirty-minute rain delay, the Everett AquaSox and Spokane Indians commenced a messy and soggy three-and-a-half-hour game. When the contest began to reach its merciful end, the AquaSox went to one of the most steady and reliable members of their bullpen to get a six-out save. Jarod Bayless, a man in his third season with Everett, who was once drafted in the 33rd round of the MLB draft, a round that does not exist anymore, came on and got the save, inching his team ever closer to a playoff appearance.

The mound Bayless pitched on was verging on a mud-filled mess, conditions even slow-pitch softball players might balk at. But Bayless did not let it shake him; instead, he embraced the conditions and took care of business, something he has had to do his entire career to stay in professional baseball.

“It was the worst mound I have ever played on,” Bayless said. “Good, that is an opportunity to make myself better, and it is an opportunity that not a lot of other guys are going to get. If there is a chance in the future where I am pitching in a meaningful game, and hopefully it is in the big leagues, and it is raining, then I got one more rep doing that than everyone else.”

Bayless is so thoughtful and inquisitive that it is hard not to be captivated when conversing with him. This has been a major advantage throughout his baseball career as he attempts to defeat the odds stacked against him. He looks at pitching as an art form and a science. Something he continues to try and evolve to master. He has embraced alternative training practices throughout his career, and his lifelong mission has been to get better and better every day.

“The odds aren’t necessarily in my favor, not throwing 98 MPH, my average fastball on the year is just north of 91 MPH, which is three miles an hour lower than big leaguers on average,” Bayless said. “If I am going to do it, it can’t be by accident; it has to be incredibly intentional, limiting the opportunity for failure.”

When Bayless was in high school, he began throwing weighted baseballs, something most of the baseball world at the time thought was, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, detrimental to a pitcher’s development. But Bayless had done his own research, not content just to accept and regurgitate traditional philosophy. He has the same attitude now as he did in high school, when he filled tennis balls with loose coins to create homemade plyo-balls, if he is going to do something, he has to believe in it.

“I knew that I wanted to get better, and I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I couldn’t just because of some arbitrary means that they were told,” Bayless said. “The real key is being bought in to what you believe. I tell the Mariners, ‘I will do anything you convince me of.’ They have convinced me, so I have bought in, and that’s the burden of proof I put on my strength training and all my training; why would I do it if I am not convinced by it?”

“So I really want to understand it on a deep level because it is just going to help me do it with more engagement of my whole body. I am not just doing it because it is on the program and it is time to work out, I am doing it because in two years or whenever I get the chance to be a big leaguer, I am going to be ready for that moment,” Bayless said.

But with such a yearning for understanding and such a passion for control over the process, Bayless says he has struggled sometimes to embrace the full reality of being a minor league baseball player. He says that he has a tendency to picture and pursue the ideal scenario or outcome so much that it can be hard to be content in the present and real situations he finds himself in.

Bayless spent a few days in Tacoma earlier in the year with the Rainers, the Mariners AAA affiliate. When he got there, he was taken aback by the talent he saw in the pitching staff. Everyone in that staff was good enough to be a big leaguer, but only about four of them had actually spent any time in the major leagues. What Bayless came to understand was that success in baseball is so much more than having good stuff or good stats; it is about adapting to the situation and staying ready and hopeful for an opportunity to succeed.

“I used to be very frustrated with how pro ball is run and how it wasn’t very optimal for my development. I realized I had this skewed view of what my job actually was. I expected one thing, and reality was different and I experienced some struggle there, reconciling those two,” Bayless said. “ This past year I realized that to be a big leaguer, you have to embrace all of that. It is not just if you are good enough. It also takes being able to throw back-to-back days when you are sore, it takes knowing how to keep yourself on the field… and it also takes a lot of luck.”

Despite being a professional pitcher, Bayless does not describe himself as a sports fan. He likes sports and their impact on individuals but does not follow professional sports closely. He does not watch sports television nor does he have the ESPN app on his phone, and when the offseason comes, he is so focused on spending time with his wife, pursuing other hobbies, and continuing his own development that watching sports is not super high on his list of priorities.

This is why Bayless has always felt the need to wrestle with what he deems to be false perceptions of who he is as a person. He always felt misunderstood or misrepresented when people would refer to him as “Jarod Bayless the baseball player.” For a long time, he felt like the game was boxing him in, but as time has gone on, he has grown not to allow other people’s perceptions to alter or affect his own perception of the game that has given him so much.

“I recently wrote a Twitter thread, a month ago, probably about how, for a long time, I didn’t want baseball to box me in. I just really wanted people to know that I was more than just a baseball player,” Bayless said. “For a long time, I didn’t embrace baseball, but now I freaking love baseball. I love all the little cultural things about it. I think baseball has this super deep mystique about it, it has a lot of tradition.”

Bayless’ main goal is to enjoy the rest of the season and to take the incremental steps he needs to eventually reach his goal of being a major leaguer. But behind all the introspection and thoughtfulness, there is a simple goal, a simple point of pride that fuels Bayless to keep on going in his baseball journey.

“There are not too many 33rd rounders left out here, so I am trying to do it for all us 33rd rounders and be one of the last ones, if not the last 33rd rounder, to make it to the league. I think that would be great,” Bayless explained.

ABOUT THE EVERETT AQUASOX: The Everett AquaSox are the High-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Everett is a member of the Northwest League and has been a Mariners affiliate since establishing the AquaSox moniker in 1995. For updates on the 2023 season, community initiatives and Webbly appearances follow the Frogs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or visit our website, Group and picnic outings can be purchased by calling (425) 258-3673 or visiting the AquaSox Front Office at 3802 Broadway in Everett.