After years of frustration, disappointment and injury-riddled seasons during his high school and college baseball career, 24-year-old outfielder Joey Amerosa can now finally call himself a professional baseball player. He officially signed with the Grays Harbor Gulls of the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League on Nov. 25 after trekking a long, winding road to the pros filled with shortcomings, bad luck and sometimes just flat out unfairness.
Amerosa is a native of Queens, N.Y. and spent his childhood in Brunswick, N.J. He credits his love for the game of baseball to his father, who played catch with him in their front yard after he got home from work. On some days, Amerosa said his father would take him to a nearby baseball field to go play as well. As a young kid, that had a great influence on Amerosa and he grew to idolize his father.
“He actually had a few pre-draft workouts for the (New York) Mets, (Chicago) Cubs, and (New York) Yankees,” said Amerosa when speaking of his father. He also recalled the stories his grandfather told him about players with the Brooklyn Dodgers he once knew.
“Those stories and my dad always playing catch with me no matter how tired he was truly gave me the love for the game.”
When Amerosa was 13 he moved to Poconos, Pa., and attended Pleasant Valley High School. It was there where his baseball career began to run into some bad luck. He was cut from the team during all four years of high school. The most frustrating part for him wasn’t the fact that he got cut, but the reason that the coaches decided to exclude him from the team.
“The school was very political,” explained Amerosa, “and at that age I had no idea about any of that nonsense.”
He later found out through a very close friend that the reason he was cut wasn’t because he wasn’t good enough, but because he didn’t grow up in that area.
“It was actually very hard and upsetting to be told that I was not good enough to even make it through the first-day cuts. It was even harder to hear that the main reason I was cut was not because of my playing ability, but because I was an ‘outsider’ and moved to the area.”
As bad as it was, he still managed to find the positive side of his unfortunate outcome of events and is now thankful for the fact that he was shorted as a high schooler.
“In a way, it made me into the ballplayer I am today. It also allowed for me to make many contacts with scouts through travel ball, which led me to certain (colleges) that would take looks at players as a recruited walk-on. It also taught me to work ten times harder, because in my mind I wanted to prove to everyone that told me I couldn’t that I actually would make it.”
Amerosa met a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization named Dylan Dando who owned a baseball academy in Pennsylvania near Amerosa’s hometown.
“He basically took me under his wing and helped me when I was cut in high school. (He taught me) to not over-think being cut and gave me encouragement to continue to play if I truly love the game and want it.”
After graduating from high school, Amerosa attended Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania his freshman year and later transferred to SUNY Caton in New York in 2012. He was planning on playing his sophomore season there, but bad luck managed to find him once again. Prior to his sophomore season, he suffered a serious hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly a year. Upon returning from his injury, he transferred to Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts to play his junior year. However, he reinjured his hamstring and missed more significant time. Following his junior year at Fitchburg State University, he transferred schools for a third time. This time closer to home as he played his senior season at Marywood University in Pennsylvania. Around that time, the Baltimore Orioles expressed interest in him and invited Amerosa to a pre-draft workout.
Prior to his senior year, he once again suffered an injury. He was hit in the face by a fastball during a team practice two days before their spring training trip and suffered a broken nose and a concussion. The injury forced him to miss the majority of the 2014 season. After being cleared to return to baseball activities, he appeared in three games for Marywood and went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts at the plate.
“I guess you could say I’m a college journeyman,” he joked.
Amerosa is now fully recovered from his injury and looks forward to playing for the Grays Harbor Gulls for the 2015 season. He said he would love for the team to capture the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball Championship in the league’s inaugural season.
“As far as my individual goals, I would like to lead the league in stolen bases and possibly make the All-Star team this year.”
Amerosa also said he is hoping to get picked up by a higher level of independent baseball or perhaps even have his contract purchased by a Major League Baseball organization and get a shot at affiliated ball.
Amerosa said he owes a large part of his success as a baseball player to his family.
“They were always there for me and still are to this day. It’s great to see that I’m finally a pro ballplayer and now they can come see me play and live out my dream for now.”
Most players who have gone through similar misfortunes, especially at the age Amerosa went through them, would have given up on the game of baseball and put a halt to pursuing their dreams in the sport. That wasn’t the case with Amerosa.
“I wanted to prove to everyone that said I was not good enough that I was. (Simple) as that. I wanted to show those people that because you cut me then, I wasn’t going to give up on my dream and reach my goals. I also wanted to set an example for other kids that may be cut and still love the game and let them know that it doesn’t matter if one person doesn’t like you, it only takes one person other than them to say ‘hey, let’s give this kid a shot!'”
“My ultimate goal would be to make it into affiliated ball and see what happens,” he said, “(and) continue to work hard and hopefully get a shot.”
He also said he wants people to recognize him as a hard-nosed player who always went 110 percent every day, regardless of the score or the outcome of the game. Amerosa added that he’d like to be remembered as a player “who treated the game with respect,” as well as the coaches and players, in a roundabout way. Simply put, he wants to be looked at as “a class act as a ballplayer.”
Anton Joe is an Independent League Baseball Reporter for Baseball Essential. You can follow him on Twitter @AntonJoe_BBE.