More than a year has passed since Travis Demeritte, the 30th overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Texas Rangers, received an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
He had two choices: (A) Run and hide from his baseball sin or (B) Confront it head on and do whatever it takes to repair his career.
Demeritte chose “B” and embarked on a face-saving journey that has taken him to the Dominican Republic; Spokane, Wash.; Surprise, Ariz.; Australia; and Adelanto, Calif. His reward was a trip Sunday to Petco Field, where he was the starting second baseman for the U.S. Team in the annual Futures Game.
I feel like I’ve grown a lot just in the past year. I’m starting to understand what it takes to be successful in this game.
Texas Rangers prospect Travis Demeritte
The damage that was done by the ban has been undone, at least as far as he and the Rangers are concerned. As one of the top power hitters in the minor leagues for High Desert, the Rangers’ High A affiliate, a more mature Demeritte is moving forward.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot just in the past year,” said Demeritte, drafted by the Rangers out of Winder Barrow High in Georgia. “I’m starting to understand what it takes to be successful in this game. I’m happy with where I’m at, but also I’m not content. I’ve got to keep working and grinding to be where I want to be.”
Demeritte was joined Sunday by Double A Frisco first baseman and fellow 21-year-old Ronald Guzman, who started for the World Team and is no stranger to difficult times. His 2014 off-season was marred by his involvement in a fatal car wreck, and though cleared of any wrongdoing, the experience has helped him mature as Demeritte’s questionable decision has aided him.
Like Demeritte, Guzman was cherishing his weekend. Each Rangers prospect walked once in two plate appearances Sunday.The World Team beat the United States 11-3.
“It’s a blessing for the chance to be here,” Guzman said. “It was one of my goals for this year, and I’m happy they trust me to be here and I will give my 100 percent.”
Guzman is batting .298 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 81 games for Frisco, and Demeritte is batting. 256 with 20 homers, 41 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs in 76 games for High Desert.
Though High Desert is known as a hitter’s paradise, Demeritte believes that none of his homers have been wind-aided or otherwise helped over the fence, and the Rangers have received similar reports.
Demeritte isn’t physically imposing, but he is strong and gets his power from a quick bat and good extension. He isn’t making enough consistent contact, not too dissimilar from top prospects Joey Gallo and Lewis Brinson in past seasons, but the Rangers say he can make that up with more experience.
After going to the Dominican Republic during his suspension to play games last season with a group of teenagers recently signed by the Rangers, Demeritte continued to the search for at-bats in Australia and discovered a timing issue with his swing.
Once that was fixed, he finished strong with the Adelaide Bite and carried it into this season. He admitted that he felt some pressure to perform after the suspension, but that went away after back-to-back two-homer games to start the season.
And he’s back in the same standing as he was before the ban.
“You can admit it, fix it and move on from it, and to Travis’ credit it, he admitted it, fixed it and moved on from it,” farm director Mike Daly said. “You never want to see a player go through it, but it was a good learning experience for him and a good development moment as well.”
New facility coming
The Rangers have purchased land for a new academy in the Dominican Republic and hope to have the facility completed early in 2018, Daly said.
“We’re pushing forward with ownership’s support,” Daly said. “We have some plans that we’re trying to finalize, and we’re going through meetings with architects and builders.”
The facility will be built in Boca Chica, only a few hundred yards from their current facility, and will feature 3 1/2 fields and a main building with dorms, classrooms, a cafeteria, a locker room and a weight room.
Similar new complexes in the area have cost between $8 million and $10 million.