28th of Jun | Story

An Emerald City trio moves East


BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky | No matter what Ryan Brett, Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson accomplish at baseball stadiums around the country over the next season or two or 10, they will always be linked. They have to be. Connections of coincidence, after all, are often the most binding.

Brett, Sale and Vettleson were all born in and around Seattle during the second half of 1991, coincidence enough, all of 27 miles and 97 days separating their entrance into the Emerald City. Less than two decades later, they were all selected by the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that didn’t exist when they were in first grade, during the first three rounds of the 2010 draft. Exactly 81 spots and a little less than a day separated them from the symbolic starts of their professional careers. Last season, they all played together at Princeton, down in the Appalachian League. This season, they’ve all played the season together here in Bowling Green in the Midwest League.

Is all of that coincidence enough? 

“It’s crazy to have two people on the same team who you knew ever since you were little,” Brett says. “Now you get to play with them professionally.”


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There are differences, of course. There have to be. No two players are the same, let alone three. Vettleson is the tallest (by an inch) and Sale is the heaviest (by 30 pounds) and Brett is the only infielder. Vettleson has hit the most home runs (four more than Sale) and has the highest average (five points better than Brett). Brett has scored the most runs (one more than Vettleson) and stolen the most bases (48 in all, just off the Midwest League lead and more than Sale and Vettleson combined). And no matter what, Sale will always be the first born (by 14 days) and the first drafted (by 25 spots). 

They all played for different Seattle high schools, too, Sale for Bishop Blanchet, Brett for Highland, and Vettleson for Central Kitsap, a ferry ride across the sound. Two years ago, on June 7, a Monday, Bishop Blanchet was already finished for the year, which meant that Sale was home when the draft unfurled. (Though really, should any sport hold its draft on a Monday?) Central Kitsap was still in session, but Vettleson, expected to go early, skipped the day. Only Brett was in class.


How have the three Seattle natives fared this season for the Bowling Green Hot Rods? Excellent overall production with occasional brilliance.


DREW VETTLESON, outfielder

.288 batting average, .353 on-base percentage, .454 slugging percentage, 14 home runs, 66 runs batted in, 73 runs scored, 19/29 steals, 120 games


RYAN BRETT, second baseman

.283/.343/.388, 6 home runs, 35 runs batted in, 74 runs scored, 48/56 steals, 99 games


JOSH SALE, outfielder

.257/.390/.459, 10 home runs, 40 runs batted in, 31 runs scored, 7/12 steals, 69 games

Not long after the Nationals grabbed Bryce Harper first overall, and the Orioles, Indians and Mets followed by taking Manny Machado, Drew Pomeranz and Matt Harvey — all now in the Majors — in the first seven picks, the Rays grabbed Sale first, 17th overall. Then came their first of several compensatory picks — two for failing to sign high picks the previous year, a third for offering one of their former players a contract only to have him opt for another team — and Vettleson at 31. Both projected as athletic outfielders. 

“Right when I got drafted, I didn’t connect the two that Josh got drafted by the Rays, then I got drafted by the Rays,” Vettleson says. “Then it came to me.”

The Rays added Brett to the draft haul the next day during the third round. He was in class at Highland on Tuesday, too, drafting an essay whose topic he has already forgotten. “I just remember my phone going crazy, vibrating,” Brett says. “I looked at my phone as I was writing this essay and my buddy told me I was going to play with Drew and Josh, and I just thought, ‘No way.’”

They seldom played against each other during high school. They seldom played at all during high school, actually.

In and around Seattle, high school baseball teams play about 20 games during a regular season — if the rain holds off and allows them to play. All three say their teams averaged four or five rainouts during each of their four seasons. “It’s a disadvantage that we have cooler weather out there,” Sale says. “If you get rained out, if you can’t make it up, then you play 16, 18 games. You got to be ready at all times.”

That lack of play has hindered players from the Northwest in the past. Scouts can’t file reports on players they never see out on a field, and players can’t be as prepared for a professional career if they never master amateur drills. Even Sale, a first-rounder, admits to struggle. “I was rough in the outfield,” he says. I just didn’t know how to go about my drills, just because we didn’t get outside for drills. A couple fungos and, here comes the rain, get in.”

At Bishop Blanchet, Sale played his home games on a turf field, which he thinks helped cut down the number of rainouts. More turf fields in the city lead to more baseball actually played. That will help the next wave of players, he says.

So will good production from players already in the minors.

“We’ve had a bunch of guys from that area get drafted,” says Brady Williams, their Bowling Green manager. “Just tells you about the talent there. There are baseball players up there who have some talent.”


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Brett, Sale and Vettleson are among the first players drafted out of Seattle who were raised more with the slap brilliance of Ichiro and the retractable roof of Safeco Field than with the elegant power of Ken Griffey Jr. and the cement of the Kingdome. They are used to different things. They expect different things.

Seattle will never be a high school baseball destination like Texas and Florida and California — always California, just down the coast — but three players who will always be linked want to help break that notion and spark change. They want more players to come out of Seattle. “We’re playing two, three months out of the year up there,” Vettleson says. “Imagine how much better we can get.”

They started their process in West Virginia, have continued it in Kentucky and hope to move up to Florida next season, Port Charlotte. Will they all move up together? Will they continue to spread good signs about Seattle baseball from the same roster?

Another opening day will tell. They will separate at some point, next season or the season after that. There will be more differences sooner or later. Until then, Vettleson says, “We get to go through the process together.”


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Time for minor league trivia. Both the Hots Rods and the Lake County Captains moved to the Midwest League from what league in 2010? (Keep reading for the answer.)

Lansing shortstop Andy Burns hit a three-run homer in the third inning to spark the Lugnuts early. After yielding five runs, Hot Rods righty Parker Markel didn’t make it out of the third and Bowling Green could never close the deficit in the 8-3 loss. The Hot Rods scored the first of their three runs on a ground out in the third by rightfielder Taylor Motter, then scored their others on a solo homer by Vettleson in the sixth and a double in the ninth by catcher Alejandro Segovia.

The nickname Hot Rods, of course, pays homage to the area's connection with the automotive and racing industries. Most famously, the city is the home of the Corvette. The Bowling Green Assembly Plant is the only place in the world where General Motors manufactures the sports car. Bowling Green is a vacation spot for Corvette owners and enthusiasts, who visit the plant and The National Corvette Museum, both located on Corvette Drive.

Want the answer? The Hot Rods and the Captains were originally part of the South Atlantic League and moved to the Midwest League to alleviate travel. Before the team moved to Bowling Green in 2009 and became the Hot Rods, they were the Wilmington Waves (2001), the South Georgia Waves (2002-03) and the Columbus Catfish (2004-08), all perfectly located within the southern division of the SAL.

And in random statistical news, the game started on time, the first pitch was a strike, the first batter — and the second batter, too — struck out swinging and a recording of the national anthem lasted 1 minute and 12 seconds. For once, we went with the healthier option and ate a couple of turkey burgers. 

Matt@AMinorLeagueSeason.com ♦ @MattLaWell ♦ @AMinorLgSeason

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