Jared Mortensen inked a 7-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays last Tuesday as he began his journey in the minor leagues with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Class A Advanced team in the Rays organization. The signing came after Mortensen's strong performance with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association in the Independent Leagues.
"I heard the news and couldn't believe it. I had finally got that call I had been waiting for," said Mortensen after hearing the news on a phone call he received from the Rays Assistant of Baseball Operations Systems, Matthew Hahn. Within two days Mortensen was in Florida and was able to meet some of the big leaguers before getting his assignment to the Stone Crabs.
"I feel like my life is completely surreal right now. It's like I'm living a dream where I can feel everything that is going on. It's incredible," Mortensen continued. He has already made his professional debut that came this past Saturday with two innings surrendering no runs and no hits with walking one and striking out one. If Mortensen continues the success he had for Grand Prairie it could be a sprint to the big league club since he is not a youngster in baseball at the age of 25. It is rare for a club to sign an unproven 25-yr old from the independent leagues for seven years but this Canadian fire-baller is ready for the challenge that he has been waiting for his whole life.
"This is a dream come true. Every kid dreams of playing professional baseball and now I am one step closer," commented Mortensen. There are only two more upwardly steps that Mortensen will need to make before reaching the big show; the Class AA affiliate (Montgomery Biscuits) and the Class AAA affiliate (Durham Bulls). Some MLB clubs chose to bring players up straight from the Class AA club to the majors and skip the option to Class AAA, only time will tell for this right hander from Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Mortensen has been a proven arm after posting great numbers in his past two stops with 94 strikeouts in 100.1 innings of work while only walking 25 with Grand Prairie. Although his 4-6 record supported by a better looking 3.76 ERA doesn't show his dominance in the Independent League, Mortensen credits the rough start as a learning experience that he took and ran with, "Grand Prairie was a big learning experience. I started off getting touched up a bit. Learning how to pitch to professional hitters was a big adjustment. It took me about 30 innings to figure out that leaving the ball up no matter how hard you throw it will get hit. Once I figured that out and committed to that style of pitching everything started rolling. I had a long streak of shutouts and great games and that's when the phone calls started coming in."
He was the Red River Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year in his senior year (2012) at LSU Shreveport posting a 12-2 record with a 1.67 ERA. He logged 139 strikeouts in 113.1 innings pitched that year to boost his career numbers at LSUS to 21-4 in 27 starts tossing 185.1 innings while allowing only 146 hits and fanning 217 hitters while only surrendering a total of 53 base on balls.
His former college pitching coach Chris Bertrand is not surprised that the righty has made it this far, "I could not be any happier for Morty. No one deserves a shot more than he does. It was truly a pleasure to watch him grow as a person and a pitcher. He is an intense competitor with a great repertoire of pitches, and I expect to see great things from him in the coming years!"
Rocke Musgraves, Mortensen's collegiate Head Coach is looking forward to watching Morty's career, "Jared Mortensen is a self-made player. His ability to train and compete is off the charts. I firmly believe Jared will be one of those guys that makes it all the way to the major-league level."
Following this season Mortensen plans to return to Dallas to train hard this winter in hopes to receiving an invite to next year's Spring Training with the big club and perhaps a spot on the 40-man roster. "This has been one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me. I'm not going to take this for granted. I'm going to work my hardest to keep this alive and make the best of it," Mortensen concluded.
If his season continues the way it's going, that dream is not too far off the radar.